EIVA Hall of Fame Inductee: Uvaldo Acosta
In the weeks leading up to the EIVA Championship match, EIVAvolleyball.com will feature each of the six inductees into the league’s inaugural Hall of Fame Class. The EIVA is in its 40th year as the leading men’s volleyball conference in the east after being founded as the Eastern Collegiate Volleyball League (ECVL) in 1971 and changing its name in 1985.
A former player and coach at George Mason, Uvaldo Acosta was already a star in the volleyball community and was looking to shoot even higher before a tragic accident on a team trip took his life in 1998.
A three-time All-American for the Patriots (1986-88), Acosta led George Mason to the 1988 NCAA Final Four and set two tournament dig records in the process. He was a member of the U.S. National team from 1989-1992 and was named as an alternate to the 1992 Olympic team that competed in Barcelona. After playing, Acosta took over the helm of the George Mason program and in his second year as coach, the team started off with a 4-1 record, the best since the 1995 season.
The team traveled to play at Hawaii in February and the Patriots almost surprised the Warriors, falling in four and putting up a good fight, especially in front of more than 5,600 fans. But the next day, the team went on an outing to the beach at the U.S. Marine base in Kaneohe, where Acosta tragically drowned in the rough surf. He was 32.
“Uvaldo Acosta was one of the most popular athletes ever to have represented the United States in men’s volleyball,” said Jim Coleman, the general manager of the USA National teams, at the time of Acosta’s death. “He was a superb athlete who never lost the common touch … the ability to play an associate with the every-day volleyball player. Who was a fierce competitor who never lost the joy of playing the game.”
“UV,” as he was known, earned a World Cup bronze medal with the U.S. National team in 1992 and was named the “Best Defensive Player” as voted by the international press. He also competed in several prestigious tournaments, including the World Championships, the NORCECA Zone Championship and the Goodwill Games.
“UV brought passion, charisma, entertainment, discipline, hard work, energy, compassion, humor, and, when necessary, a sense of awe for his athleticism and skill,” said friend and current George Mason head coach Fred Chao. “These were true of him as a player as well as a coach.”
Acosta also assisted with the George Mason women’s program, helping that squad to its fifth straight CAA title. In 1997 he took over the helm of the men’s program, looking to employ his “innovative offensive ideas,” according to his biography at the time on the Patriot’s website.
“He was a man of integrity, joy, and fire all at the same time,” said Chao. “UV radiated all of the character traits that he tried to instill on his players. His honesty and integrity were beyond reproach. He solved problems by seeking the answers and working harder than anyone else. He was a quintessential ‘mad-scientist’ at times, and he was always thinking about different ways to do things. I was fortunate to have spent time with UV. His soul and his spirit continue to permeate the George Mason Volleyball Program. This is not a residual effect of his previous impact, but a purposeful influence that I draw upon everyday. The best compliment I ever received is when a fan once said that a particular player of mine reminded her of UV. Being in the inaugural class of the EIVA Hall of Fame is fitting, as his influence in the volleyball world is international as well.”
The EIVA Player of the Year award is named after Acosta and each year George Mason holds the Uvaldo Acosta Memorial Scholarship match to honor their alumnus and coach.
Photo Credit: Diane Williams
Story Courtesy of Jen Armson-Dyer, EIVA Communications Director
Photos Courtesy of Diane Williams
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