FREDERICTON, NB -- Even before the 2012-13 Atlantic University Sport volleyball season started Matt Sweet and Andrew Costa were men on a mission
The team captains from P.E.I. are the only 5th year players on the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds and they made it clear they wanted to end their AUS volleyball careers with another banner.
The Varsity Reds defeated the Dalhousie Tigers three games to one in the first match of the AUS best-of-three championship February 15 at the Dalplex and then headed home for the second match February 17 where they secured the title with another three games to one (23-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-7) victory in front of over 1,100 fans.
The Varsity Reds ended Dal’s 24-year run as AUS champions in 2011, but Dal regained the title last year.
“We just had a different urgency this year, right from the get-go,” said Sweet of this year’s performance. “Everybody realized winning wasn’t going to be easy and we had to work for it all season, not just when it came time to play AUS.”
He is the son of Glen and Della Sweet of O’Leary.
The V-Reds finished just two points behind the Tigers in the regular season, which included matches against teams in the Quebec Conference, as well as matches against the only other AUS team, Memorial. Dal and UNB actually split their regular season matches before the V-Reds pulled off a convincing 2-0 play-off summary.
“It was a pretty surreal experience, especially winning at home,” said the son of Frank and Elizabeth Costa of Summerside. “A couple of years ago, it was great, because it was the first time we won in many years, but winning at home was definitely a new experience and it was nice to finish off our career at UNB like that.”
But their job is not yet done. Sweet, Costa and the rest of the Varsity Reds, including six other players from the 2011 AUS championship team, are in Laval this weekend for the eight-team CIS national championship. The V-Reds go in ranked sixth and will face third-ranked McMaster Marauders in Friday’s 1:30 p.m. (AST) quarter-final. If they win that they play in a semi-final at 7 p.m. Saturday. Otherwise, they play in a consolation match at 1:30 Saturday. The fifth place, bronze medal and gold medal matches are Sunday.
A couple of years ago, it was great, because it was the first time we won in many years, but winning at home was definitely a new experience and it was nice to finish off our career at UNB like that - UNB Men's volleyball co-captain and libero, Andrew Costa
No AUS team has ever won the CIS championship since the Tantramar Trophy was first awarded in 1967.
“It’s been a long career and enjoyable with lots of rewards,” Costa assessed. “I think, both of us, we want to try to give the best experience, or best performance, that a UNB team has ever done at Nationals and let the Varsity Reds program be more recognized across the country and, hopefully, (attract) a few international players who are looking to come to Canada for school.”
Sweet said all the players on the team have the same mindset and the intensity level in practices has been ratcheted up. “Since we confirmed our spot at Nationals we’ve really been pushing hard,” he said.
Switches to setter
Costa, 6’1”, earned the AUS award for top libero in this his first year at that position. Prior to this season Costa had been a setter, but took on the new role at the suggestion of coach Dan McMorran.
“I said to my coach I wanted to do whatever it took to get the team back to the CIS, and I wanted to finish my career with a banner and, whatever he thought was best for the program and the team, I would do that,” Costa said of his conversation with Coach McMorran between seasons. While his role was different, he said it was a fun one and a good experience. In his new role of backcourt specialist, Costa finished second in the AUS conference with 109 digs.
Sweet put up some strong numbers as a six foot two outside hitter with 111 kills (seventh in the conference). He also had 15 aces and 96 digs (both fourth in the conference).
There is one other Islander with the V-Reds this season, six-foot six first-year player Alec Parise from Miscouche, who Costa and Sweet are confident will develop into a team leader.
While Costa and Sweet’s careers as university will end with the CIS, both are expecting to stay involved with the sport. Costa is coaching the P.E.I. Canada Games beach volleyball team, which includes Parise as a potential player, and Sweet is helping out with the indoor program in New Brunswick.