The UNB Varsity Reds lost a heartbreaking match against the visiting Saint Mary's Huskies, 3-2 at the Richard J. Currie Center.
Individual set scores were: 25-15, 20-25, 25-19, 16-25, and 16-14.
Today's game marked the final instalment of the Stewart McKelvey Think Pink weekend, a campaign held to help raise awareness and support for breast cancer research.
The first set got underway with SMU taking the early 5-1 lead with heavy serving from Briana Donnelly. Paige Paulsen got the V-Reds into the game, setting up monstrous kills from big hitter, Celina Abba, narrowing the gap, 12-10. Jane Pegg recorded the next six points on serve to distance SMU from UNB and eventually take the first set, 25-15.
The second set started with both squads splitting 16 points creating an 8-8 tally. Saint Mary's Josie Leduc played big at the night returning UNB balls to shift the balance in the Huskies direction, 13-12. Strong services from Paulsen and Vanja Mitrovic kept the V-Reds in front 22-19. With some good blocking from Abba the V-Reds took the second set, 25-20.
The third set saw SMU take the initial 5-2 lead on some well-placed kills from offside hitter Shelby Michaels. The V-Reds got some huge digs from Libero Paige Nelmes, keeping the ball alive for the power swings of Rebecca Glancy, staying close trailing, 10-9. Glancy continued to be a strong presence for UNB hitting down back-to-back kills staying close, 20-19. On a final missed block, the Huskies took the third set 25-19.
UNB came out strong in the third set, pulling ahead quickly, under the service of Sarah Hutcheson producing an 8-3 lead. The Huskies managed to pull to within two, 10-8 capitalizing on UNB errors but Paulsen forced a deciding fifth set, recording two back-to-back service aces, winning the set 25-16.
Saint Mary's took the early lead in the deciding set, 5-2 by means of some crafty setting by Leduc. The V-Reds stayed in it with the continued masterful performance of Glancy and middle Abba, catching up 9-8. Abba tied the match up at 10-10 with perfectly timed spike, sending the ball to the floor. The stalemate continued with some lengthy back and forth rallies, both teams arriving at a 13-13 score. On the final play of the match SMU's #11 banks it off a UNB player to the floor, winning the set 16-14, and the match 3-2.
UNB coach Gillian Goulet was thrilled with her team's performance, despite the end result, saying: "I'm happy with them, they fought, they adjusted, they did what they could, there is lots to be proud of on the match today."
At the end of the game, the team celebrated four of the senior players on the team, who will graduate this year. Celina Abba, Rebecca Glancy, Paige Paulsen, and Jodie McGill fought back tears and accepted a parting gift from coaches, before embracing with the team and family.
The women will go on to the AUS playoffs in two weeks with a game on February 14th, in Halifax, either at 5:00pm or 7:00pm depending on end of season rankings.
Tom Wilson for UNB Sports Information