(FREDERICTON, NB) When the UNB Varsity Reds take to the BMO Centre turf on Saturday, some of the team’s most popular players will be doing so for the final time.
UNB plays host to the Saint Mary’s Huskies on Saturday. It’s the team’s final home game of the season.
Kick-off is scheduled for 5:15pm.
Kalen Park(Calgary, AB), Marcus Lees(Barrie, ON), Max Vittroti(London, UK), Robbie Park(Glasgow, SCO) and Diego Padilha(Maceio, BRA) are all playing in their fifth and final year of U SPORTS eligibility.
Matt Mountney(Cheshire, UK) could play another season, but is undecided on whether he’ll return.
Robbie Park expects it to be an emotional day.
“Being a Varsity Red has given me the strength and belief that I'll be able to succeed wherever I go in life,” said the speedy Scot. “The challenges I’ve faced within this program and the success it has had really puts extra demand on you as a student-athlete, but I'd definitely do it all over again.”
After Friday’s win over Moncton, in which Park scored, he’s played 50 regular season games as a Varsity Red, scoring 15 goals.
Saturday will be the 60th regular season game as a Varsity Red for Lees. He’s started in 55 of those games and been named an Atlantic University Sport All-Star in each of his four seasons so far.
“Being a Varsity Red has been both an honour and a privilege,” said Lees. “My best memories as a V-Red have been going to the Harriett Irving Library on Tuesdays to check the news articles and read what’s being said about the team, based on our results from the weekend. Regardless of our results, the articles always motivated me.”
Padilha is a four-time AUS First Team All-Star, and will be remembered as one of the greatest midfielders in Varsity Reds history.
“Being a Varsity Red is not as simple as people think,” said Padilha. “We dedicate lots of hours from our lives to work hard at training sessions to become a better player. We give up on things we love to do because we need to focus and work hard to be successful.”
“I can surely say that coming to UNB was one of the best decisions I took in my life,” said the Brazilian.
Kalen Park has scored just once in 61 regular season games as a V-Red.
Despite the fact that Saturday’s game marks the end of his career at BMO, he won’t be changing his routine.
“My mind set on Saturday will be the same as any other game,” he said. “I just want to go out and make my team and family proud.”
“They’ve given everything to this team,” said third year striker Dan Walker(Fredericton, NB) of the graduating players.
Walker says he and other younger Varsity Reds have watched the six, and tried to emulate them. “They’re always the ones picking everyone else up, they’ve always been the leaders.”
Mountney has seen limited action in 2017, after a mid-season knee injury.
He’s started all 41 of the regular season games he’s played in with UNB.
For Mountney, like others, the highlight of his time with the Varsity Reds is easy to identify.
“Winning a national silver medal, at York, in 2015,” he said. “The sense of achievement was a reward for all the hard work we put in on the training pitch.”
The graduating players also have national bronze medals from 2013, a feat they accomplished at BMO Centre.
They’d like to complete their sets in 2017.
“My last great memory is coming up soon,” says Padilha. “That is the U SPORTS title in my last season.”
“The beginning of the season did not go as expected, but at this point in the year I am confident to say that we have the confidence and potential to make this dream come true.”