(FREDERICTON, NB) The UNB Varsity Reds are champions of Atlantic University Sport men's volleyball for a second straight season.
The Varsity Reds defeated the Dalhousie Tigers by a score of 3-1, taking the best-of-three Subway AUS men's volleyball championship series in two straight matches.
UNB won Saturday night's second match with set scores of 32-30, 25-20, 30-32 and 25-12.
Eivind Andersen (Sandnes, NOR) led the Varsity Reds with a match-high 26 kills. He added 16 digs.
Andersen, a fifth year hitter, was named the MVP of the championship series.
"We all wanted to win," said Andersen. "There's a lot of senior guys on the team and we all showed up when we had to… and it feels great."
Pascal McCarthy (Fredericton, NB) helped the UNB effort with 11 kills and 13 digs, while Mathieu Losier (Fredericton, NB) recorded 48 assists.
Adam Sandeson (Lower Truro, NS) led the Tigers with 22 digs, while Matthew Donovan (London, ON) had 19 kills.
The Tigers appeared to take control early in the first set, building leads of 12-8 and 16-11.
With Dal up 19-13, UNB came to life. A 5-0 run closed the game to a single point, but Dal pulled ahead again.
In a marathon battle, the two sides forced ties at 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30 before a kill and a block by Elliott Allison (London, UK) pushed the Varsity Reds to a dramatic 32-30 win.
"We never had bad body language, we never hung our heads, we always knew that we'd persevere," said Varsity Reds head coach Dan McMorran, of his team's come from behind first set victory.
The second set was even, early. A late 4-0 run gave UNB a 24-18 lead, as they won 25-20.
The third set was as exciting, and as long, as the first, with ties at 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30.
Back to back service aces by Adam Spragg (Gilford, ON) gave Dal the 32-30 win, their first set of the championship series.
"Emotionally, we were a little flat after that," said Tigers head coach Dan Ota. "Maybe we invested so much coming back at the end of that third set. I'm proud of our group, we fought. It was a difficult situation."
5-0 and 4-0 runs in the fourth set propelled the Varsity Reds to victory.
Championship point came on a kill by Andersen, sparking a raucous celebration inside UNB's Richard J. Currie Center.
Almost 1,100 fans were in attendance, most cheering for the Varsity Reds.
"This is the biggest crowd we've played in front of," said senior setter Matt Losier. "They're what kept us in the game in the fourth set. It was hard mentally, losing that third set with a couple of championship points, but they never gave up on us, and we didn't give up on ourselves."
"I couldn't be more happy with our guys, and how we kept getting better as the season went on," said McMorran. "It wasn't a storybook season for us. We had some injuries, we had some line-up changes, we started three first year guys for most of the year, and we've had some guys step up at key times."
Even Ota acknowledged that the Varsity Reds improved throughout the season.
"I think they did a great job of turning their season around, because it wasn't looking too positive in the fall," he said. "They're playing really well and we knew it would be a tough series."
The back to back conference championships are the first for UNB since the 1977-78 and 1978-79 seasons.
The Varsity Reds will now represent Atlantic University Sport at the U SPORTS championship tournament, in Edmonton, March 17-19.
RECAP AND PHOTOS BY: Andy Campbell/UNB Athletics