In what has become an Atlantic University Sport (AUS) tradition over the past 10 years, Dalhousie is squaring off against the University of New Brunswick for the men’s volleyball title.
The Tigers entered the final in first place with a 13-4 record to give them home court advantage in the best-of-three series against the defending champion Varsity Reds.
It took a fifth and deciding set to determine the winner on Feb. 7, with the Tigers taking the first game of the AUS championship series 3-2.
The Munro Day match provided fans at the Dalplex with a tight battle, with the Tigers and Varsity Reds alternating 26-24 set wins to open play. The Tigers failed to capitalize on their game point in the second set, surrendering four straight points to lose the set.
The Reds started the third start strongly with a five-point lead. A timeout by head coach Dan Ota got the Tigers’ composure back, and they were able to take the third set 25-21. However, UNB answered back in the fourth set and tied the game at 2-2 with a 25-20 set win.
“It wasn’t always perfect but our guys played well at the important points,” says Ota, who praised the team’s composure. “Our guys held it together in a very emotional charged atmosphere.”
The Tigers won the deciding set 15-12 courtesy of a couple of aces by Jonathan MacDonald and Connor Maessen before Kristen O’Brien took the match point. The Tigers took Game 1 of the best-of-three series and saluted the home crowd.
“The crowd was awesome,” says Tigers captain and player of the game Bryan Duquette. “I didn’t take a look too long into the crowd, but it was probably the most I’ve seen for a volleyball match.”
Game 2 of the series will be on Feb. 15 in Fredericton, with the Tigers hoping to retake the AUS crown they lost last year.
“The pressure is all on them, it’s their home crowd, we are up one,” says outside hitter Glenn Lassaline. “They have to do something special and we have to take that away from them.”