UNB Saint John Athletics
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Men’s volleyball squad off to stellar start

Author: Scott Briggs

Posted on Nov 22, 2019

Category: Volleyball , Alumni , ACAA , Uncategorized

SAINT JOHN -- After winning two provincial titles at Nackawic High School, Ben Wilson brought a championship pedigree to the UNB Saint John men’s volleyball program last year. Still, the second-year setter admits the jump was an adjustment.  “It’s a faster pace and you learn to adapt quicker,” Wilson said. “You can’t spend too much time over-thinking things. You just have to get into it and roll with the punches, and give it your all. I learned a lot about leadership and just stepping up to the plate. It’s not just the older guys who are leaders. The young guys can be leaders, too.”

That’s the case even more so this season for a squad with no seniors. The young Seawolves opened the 2019-20 ACAA season with a 3-2 home win over archrival St. Thomas University before suffering a 3-1 road setback to defending-champion Holland College.  But a four-team conference brings ample opportunity for redemption, and that’s precisely what happened when UNB Saint John defeated the Hurricanes 3-2 and 3-0 on Nov. 16 and 17, respectively, at the G. Forbes Elliot Athletics Centre. The first-place Seawolves were 3-1 after their first four matches, followed by St. Thomas (2-1), Universite Sainte-Anne (2-2) and Holland College (1-4). The ACAA campaign closes for Christmas break on Dec.1 and resumes in January, before culminating with the conference championship tournament Feb. 28-March 1 at Mount Allison University in Sackville.

“It’s up for grabs,” Wilson said about the conference crown. “For us, the regular season is about getting to know your opponent. Our strength is our defence and our back-court coverage. As long as we’re good defensively, we can convert that into an (effective) offence.”

Third-year heach coach Dino Karatzios agrees with that assessment, adding his team’s strengths also include speed and ball-handling.  “Defence and reducing our errors will be the keys for our team,” he said. “We don’t have the same firepower or height as last year, but we’re better ball-handlers. If we can reduce our errors, we can capitalize on that. Our team dynamics are good, too. The chemistry is really growing between the players.” 

Enemies no more

Two of Wilson’s teammates used to be fierce foes. Hartland’s Blake Stephenson and Brandon Dickinson grew up wanting to beat Nackawic, along with any other school in the Upper St. John River Valley.  “It’s cool to go from playing each other to being teammates,” Wilson said. “Hartland was our big rivalry.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the roster includes Ryan Littlejohn (Bay Roberts, NL); Jake Glaspy (Rothesay); Ryan Farrell (Fredericton); Kyle Brown (Fredericton); Tyler Johnson (Oromocto); Garett Windle (Fredericton); Carson Dorcas (Douglas); Simon Anctil (Jemseg); Ben Irvine (Saint John), and Austin Kendall (Hanwell).

Fresh faces

This year’s new kids on the block are Littlejohn, Dickinson, Brown, Dorcas, Irvine and Kendall.  “It’s exciting,” Karatzios said. “We’ve brought in six first years players, so once this (older) group leaves, there will be a progression. Having depth on your bench is key. It’s a long season and you always have injuries.”

That depth will be tested when the Seawolves host Quebec’s Cegep Limoilou at Ecole Samuel-de-Champlain on Dec. 6. A perennial powerhouse, Limoilou won the 2018 CCAA championship after capturing silver the three previous years. The non-conference clash will be held off campus due to exams.