FREDERICTON, N.B. (from UNB Varsity Reds) — A long and difficult season has come to an end for the UNB Varsity Reds.
The Varsity Reds completed their Atlantic University Sport season with their 20th loss in 20 matches. UNB dropped a 3-0 decision to the Saint Mary’s Huskies on Sunday afternoon (25-16, 25-16 and 25-22).
“I feel happy, to be honest,” said Varsity Reds head coach Jilliane Portelli. “It’s a weird emotion to be feeling after an 0-and-20 season, but we’ve grown, we’ve learned, the girls are getting better, and we did put in our best effort today.”
The Huskies finish the season with a 14-and-6 record, good for third in the AUS. They’ll meet No. 2 Acadia in the first round of the Subway AUS Championships, hosted by Memorial University.
“We had lots of good communication,” said fourth-year Huskie Maddie Clarke (Ottawa, ON). “We had a good sense of togetherness on the court which really helped.”
Clarke led the Huskies with a match-high 14 digs. She had 12 kills too, also a match-high, and was named the Subway Player of the Match. Anna Watt (Calgary, AB) and Kristina Adler (Brampton, ON) both had 10 digs for Saint Mary’s.
Megan Kuciak (Ottawa, ON) led the Varsity Reds effort with 11 digs. Julia Diemert (Egbert, ON) contributed eight kills, while Paige Lehto (North Vancouver, BC) had a match-high 26 serve assists.
The first set saw the Huskies establish an early 4-1 lead. After some back-and-forth, Saint Mary’s would extend that lead to 20-14 on the strength of a 3-0 run with Clarke serving. The Huskies took the opening set 25-16.
Not much changed in the second set, Saint Mary’s building a 6-1 lead and going on to win 25-16, riding the strong serving of Clarke, Watt, and Hannah Duncan (Halifax, NS).
The third set was following a similar script until the Varsity Reds roared to life in the late going. Adora Rooyakkers (Port Hawkesbury, NS) served a 4-0 run as UNB closed to within two points, but the Huskies prevailed, winning the set 25-22 and the match 3-0.
“I’m trying not to think of the season as a whole,” said Portelli. “We were really focused on this game today and having a better effort than we did yesterday… and we did.”
The Huskies were wary of the fact the Varsity Reds were winless.
“It was mentioned,” admitted Clarke. “But we knew we were not going to be that team. We were pretty confident coming into this that we were going to come out with the ‘W.’”
The Huskies now have two weeks to prepare for the AUS championship tournament. The Varsity Reds can only look to next season. Coach Portelli says that look ahead will have to wait until after a much-needed break.
“It’s very emotional when you don’t get those temporary reliefs from losing,” she said. “We haven’t had any, so we’re going to take a bit of a break. But we have to buckle down individually and work on some skills.”