Tuesday, February 9, 1999
Patriots return;By Cindy Luis
still in mourning
There is some unfinished business to be taken care of.
There is a match to be played and some goodbyes to be said.
The George Mason men's volleyball returns to Hawaii this week, hoping to find some closure to a year of mourning while also celebrating the life of Uvaldo Acosta. Last Feb. 12, the Patriots lost their dynamic head coach in a drowning accident at Marine Corps Base Hawaii-Kaneohe.
The accident occurred the day after the Patriots lost to Hawaii in what was supposed to be the first of two matches. The second match was cancelled by the GMU athletic administration.
"They (the Patriot players) wanted to play that second night and so did we," said Rainbow coach Mike Wilton. "They would have experienced so much aloha. It would have been cathartic for all of us."
A year later, it will happen. The unranked Patriots (4-0) will face the No. 5 Rainbows tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the first of two matches unofficially dedicated to Acosta.
"This whole trip is about so much more than volleyball," first-year George Mason coach Fred Chao said in a phone call from Virginia yesterday. "There is no better place for us to be than Hawaii, from a support and sensitivity standpoint.
"We have a lot of guys returning from last year and I know it's going to be emotional for all of us. But what runs through my head right now is how fortunate we are to be going where we will be surrounded by all the people who gave so much to us after Uvaldo died. I guess it's what you call the aloha spirit."
The outpouring of support from the islands after Acosta's death was overwhelming, said Chao. Of the $5,700 in the Acosta Memorial Fund, some $2,500 came from people in Hawaii.
"The money was nice but it was more than that," said Chao, who played at Pepperdine as a freshman then transferred to play at George Mason. "It was the letters of support and caring.
"I'm sure it will hit us at some point during the trip. But life does go on and this is a very good step for us to take."
George Mason was scheduled to arrive this afternoon. The Patriots are hoping to get back on base Friday, the one-year anniversary of Acosta's death, for a private memorial service.
Acosta's jersey will be retired by George Mason before its March 19 match with Penn State, "so we will have something permanent to remind us of Uvaldo," said Chao. The match will be used as a fund-raiser for the memorial fund.
The Patriot Club is accepting donations for the fund. Contributions can be sent to GMU, 4400 University Drive, MS 3A5, Fairfax, Va., 22030.
Rainbow volleyballWho: George Mason (4-0) at No. 5 Hawaii (5-2).
When: 7 p.m. tomorrow and Friday.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center.
Broadcasts: Live on KFVE-TV (Channel 5). No radio.