WOLFVILLE, NS - Following a successful 2018 winter season, which featured all of Acadia's winter sports teams moving on to post season play and four of five teams participating in a U SPORTS National Championships, Acadia's winter programs will remain steady with the same coaches at the helm for 2018-2019.
"One of the keys to our success over the past few years has been the stability of our coaching staff,” said athletics director Kevin Dickie. “We announced the return of all five fall sport coaches a few months ago, and we're excited to do the same now with the remaining five, three of which have signed new contracts.”
Darren Burns, the longest-serving coach on the Acadia coaching staff list, enters his 18th season as head coach of the Axemen hockey program. Burns celebrated his 300th career win (regular season and playoffs) early in the 2018 playoff round. At the helm of the Axemen, Burns has not missed the playoffs in 14 consecutive seasons. After a 2017 U SPORTS bronze medal season, the Axemen attended its fourth U SPORTS National Championship Tournament in the last five seasons.
"My life's been in and around the game of hockey, and I know Darren Burns will leave his mark on U SPORTS hockey alongside some of the long-standing coaches whose names are synonymous with university hockey,” Dickie said. “Even though Darren's contract wasn't completed, with our program hosting nationals in two years, and with a large recruiting class this year, we wanted to ensure stability in our coaching staff moving forward. Our hockey team is a top Canadian program, and that is because of Darren's hard work and leadership.”
‘A whole different level’
The Axewomen volleyball team, led by Michelle Wood, had a breakout season in 2018 and finished second in the AUS standings with a 16-4 record. The team topped the Saint Mary's Huskies in semifinal play and pushed the eventual (and defending) AUS champion, Dalhousie, to a close fifth and final set.
"Michelle has made a significant difference in our whole athletic program in many ways, but obviously, volleyball is the priority and she's taken the team to a whole different level,” said Dickie. “Everyone's goal is to win national championships, but at the very least, create a culture that you do all the critical things that those teams do with your program. Michelle is a national-caliber coach that's done exactly that."
Entering her seventh season as head coach, Wood received the WomenActive Nova Scotia Trendsetters 2018 Leadership Award this past spring for her effort in changing culture, attitudes, programs, and systems to enrich the lives of all women and girls as participants and leaders in sport, recreation, and physical activity in Nova Scotia.
Since arriving in Nova Scotia six years ago, Wood has created development and mentorship opportunities for both athletes and coaches as the Founder and Director of the Axe Volleyball Club program, and as a mentor coach with Volleyball Nova Scotia. Wood was named Volleyball Nova Scotia's Volunteer of the Year in 2016 and was honoured by her AUS peers as the 2018 Coach of the Year.
For the last four seasons, the Axemen have steadily improved under the leadership of head coach, Kevin Duffie. The basketball Axemen improved its 5-15 record in Duffie's first year to 15-5 this past AUS season and also represented the AUS as hosts of the 2018 U SPORTS Final 8 Men's Basketball Championship.
"Nothing is more pleasing, as an athletic director, than to observe tremendous growth and development in a coach, and Kevin Duffie is at the top of my list in terms of that,” Dickie said. “There is no question Kevin would be very good coach and the job he did last year guiding our team through a successful national championship hosting was outstanding. Our 15-5 regular season and playing all three days at the Final 8 was a testament to Kevin's achievements.”
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Head coaches Len Harvey (women's basketball) and Gary MacDonald (swimming) are also returning under current contracts.
Harvey captured an AUS title in his third year guiding the Axewomen basketball squad, while MacDonald posted the best AUS championship medal haul since the program's return in 2009.