(FREDERICTON, NB) A new era begins Friday for the UNB Reds women’s volleyball team.
The Reds open their 2018-19 Atlantic University Sport schedule at l’Universite de Moncton, facing les Aigles Bleues.
It will be the first game under first year head coach Christine Biggs.
“There is an overwhelming feeling of excitement and pride in the work we’ve put in and the opportunity to continue to grow, and begin to showcase that growth through competition,” said Biggs, on the eve of the new season.
Biggs replaced Jilliane Portelli, who resigned last spring after six years on the job.
She inherited a team recruited largely by her predecessor, and loaded with potential.
After four seasons as a stand-out with the UBC-Okanagan Heat, of Canada West, outside hitter Siobhan Fitzpatrick has joined the Reds to play her final year of eligibility.
2015 AUS Rookie of the Year Victoria Eadle is back after more than a season away from the team.
They join fifth year libero Maggie McLenahan, and fourth year players Megan Kuciak and Robyn Anderson to form a solid veteran core.
“With a new coach comes a new perspective and new system, which can be challenging but it is also very exciting,” said Kuciak. “I think Christine’s system plays to our strengths extremely well and we are all ready to commit to the process that will, hopefully, lead us to the success we are looking for.”
Playing her final season at UNB, Kuciak is hoping to finish her career with some success.
“We’re focused on our side of the net, training hard for small day to day improvements that will lead to consistent play in our upcoming games.
2017 AUS Rookie of the Year Kristen Burns enters her third season as the most notable of an interesting ensemble cast.
“Our strength is in our diversity,” said Biggs. “Everyone has been really open-minded, which allows us to be creative in our problem solving, and everyone has been committed to high standards in training, which means come game day, we don’t have to do anything extra.”
While adapting to a new coach and a new system, Kuciak is excited to be sharing the court with Fitzpatrick.
“Siobhan is a strong and composed player who brings a wealth of knowledge to the team in a leadership role,” she said. “She also brings an infectious energy from her experience playing on a strong Canada West team.”
Biggs may be the new kid on the bench, but she’s got a staff that is more than familiar with the potential of this season’s squad and the team’s past.
“Working with a staff of proud alumni has created an avenue to honor the previous successes of the program, and build towards a dominant future for the team.”
The Reds open the season at Moncton before hosting les Aigles Bleues in a re-match next Friday.
UNB went 0-20 in 2017-18, but that means little to Biggs, who won’t speculate on what lies ahead.
“We need to prepare for each opponent and each match, as it comes, one day at a time,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what the match previews say, the size of teams, or even the year their players are in. What matters is who can perform with their jerseys on and a ref on the stand when it counts.”
And, starting Friday, it counts.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY: Andy Campbell/UNB Athletics