HAMILTON (CIS) – Trailing after two scrappy sets, the UNB Varsity Reds found their game and the means to engineer a remarkable win. The Varsity Reds stormed back to defeat the Waterloo Warriors for their first five-set victory of the season, a night after losing in five to the Saskatchewan Huskies at the 50th CIS men's volleyball championship.
"We've talked all season about the road that we're on and the need for constant progression," said UNB head coach Dan McMorran. "We told ourselves that we needed to find a way to play our best ball in these tight situations, and I think we had a few key plays that we were able to build off of."
Waterloo was left rueing a second straight night on which they featured less than their best volleyball.
"Even in the first two sets that we won, we were playing very bad volleyball," said Waterloo head coach Chris Lawson. "I don't think we fully recovered from yesterday.
"We played very poorly and still managed to win, and somehow, that didn't make us relax. We only got tenser and tenser as the match went on."
Set scores were 23-25, 21-25, 25-18, 25-23 and 15-10 in favour of the Varsity Reds, who advance to face the Laval Rouge et Or in Saturday's fifth-place game. The Atlantic University Sport (AUS) champions were 0-3 in interlock against the Rouge et Or this season.
The Warriors trademark blocking prowess helped them grab hold of the opening set, as they locked up five blocks as a team and held New Brunswick to an even zero in hitting percentage with nine kills versus nine errors. A service run from Gibson Graham helped propel Waterloo to a 13-8 lead, and after weathering a comeback from the Varsity Reds, the Warriors reeled off three key points late with Cok at the line to nudge themselves ahead for good.
Even while their defence had excelled in set one, the Warriors offence had sputtered. But that was not the case in the second, where Waterloo enjoyed a 39 per cent hitting rate as a team, and committed just three errors. Cok was lethal in the set, with seven kills versus just one error, and continued to see the bulk of the offensive workload for Waterloo.
The teams were deadlocked at 19 late in the set, before Waterloo engineered a 6-2 run to cross the finish line, sealing the set on Cok's seventh kill of the period.
That's when UNB kicked into gear, and AUS Player of the Year Eivind Anderson believed that the early setback was precisely what his team needed to fully enter the match.
"We might have needed that push to get going today," said Anderson. "We played really well against Saskatchewan and that might have made us a bit too comfortable to start today."
Facing elimination from the tournament, the Varsity Reds found a way to unlock their offence in the third set. 11 team digs spoke to the newfound passing on display from New Brunswick, who raised their hitting percentage from a paltry 10 in set two to 43 in the third. Anderson dug himself out of a negative percentage, with four kills versus one error in the third.
Two consecutive kills from Anderson helped UNB to a 14-8 lead and forced Waterloo into a timeout, and the Varsity Reds continued to lead convincingly at the technical break. Needing a run to stage a comeback, the Warriors could only play side-out volleyball, and the Reds clawed back half of their overall deficit when setter Matthew Losier blocked Greg Simone for 25-18.
With momentum clearly in their favour, the Varsity Reds took care of business convincingly in the fifth and final set, committing just two errors as a team. A four point run, including two kills from Anderson, gave UNB a lead they would not relinquish.
Kills: Pascal McCarthy (15), Eivind Anderson (14)
Points: Eivind Anderson (16.5), Pascal McCarthy (16.5)
Blocks: Samuel Alves (4.5)
Digs: Eivind Anderson (11), Patrick Surette (11)
Service aces: Matthew Losier (2), Samuel Alves (2)
Player of the match: Matthew Losier
Kills: Braden Cok (21), Aidan Simone (11)
Points: Braden Cok (23), Aidan Simone (14)
Blocks: Jordan McConkey (3.5), Trevor Coathup (3)
Digs: Gibson Graham (13), Erich Woolley (12)
Service aces: Aidan Simone (2)
Player of the match: Catherine Laurin
CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE & RESULTS
Thursday, March 10
13:00 Quarter-final #1: Trinity Western 3, Ryerson 1 (25-19, 25-22, 23-25, 26-24)
15:00 Quarter-final #2: Alberta 3, Laval 0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-19)
18:00 Quarter-final #3: Saskatchewan 3, UNB 2 (23-25, 25-20, 19-25, 25-20, 15-10)
20:00 Quarter-final #4: McMaster 3, Waterloo 0 (25-15, 25-15, 25-18)
Friday, March 11
13:00 Consolation #1: Laval 3, Ryerson 2 (22-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-17 16-14)
15:00 Consolation #2: UNB 3, Waterloo 1 (23-25, 21-25, 25-18, 25-23, 15-10)
18:00 Semifinal #1: Winner QF #1 vs. Winner QF #2 (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv)
20:00 Semifinal #2: Winner QF #3 vs. Winner QF #4 (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv)
Saturday, March 12
13:00 5th place: Laval vs. UNB (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv)
15:00 Bronze medal (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv)
18:00 Championship final (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv) *