Uvaldo Acosta


HONOLULU (AP) - February 12, 1998 - The men's volleyball coach for George Mason University drowned Thursday in rough surf off the U.S. Marine base in Kaneohe.

University of Hawaii officials said 32-year-old Uvaldo Acosta was swimming with a companion when he began struggling at about 1 p.m. His team also was at the beach.

Acosta's unidentified companion was rescued by lifeguards and revived, but they could not immediately locate Acosta. A helicopter was called in and his body was pulled from the ocean at about 3 p.m., said UH spokesman Derek Inouchi.

George Mason played Hawaii on Wednesday night and was scheduled to play again Friday night. That match has been canceled.

A Tribute to Head Coach Uvaldo Acosta
(From George Mason University)

This past February 12, tragedy struck George Mason volleyball when head coach Uvaldo Acosta was swept away from us in a drowning accident on a team trip to Hawaii.

A three-time All-American (1986-88) as a player from George Mason and a 1996 graduate with a B.A. degree in Sociology, Uvaldo led the Patriots to the NCAA Final Four in 1988 and set two tournament dig records there which still stand today. As a second-year head coach, he had his 1998 team off to a 4-1 start, the program's best since 1995. The night before the tragedy his team played to a hard-fought 3-1 loss to national power Hawaii in front of 5,600 spectators in Honolulu -- one of the largest crowds ever to see George Mason play.

Afterwards he told the media, "We were the underdogs and had nothing to lose. I'm pretty proud of my team, they played hard and didn't give up."

Like his team, Uvaldo was known for never giving up -- not after each of his numerous athletic injuries and surgeries, not after being surprisingly left off the U.S. Olympic Team in 1992, not even after his team lost to Hawaii on that memorable Wednesday. He even predicted a possible return trip to Hawaii for the NCAA "Final Four" scheduled at the University of Hawaii in April.

"I'm glad we came out here," said Acosta that special evening. "I think we caught Hawaii by surpise. With the East wide open, my feeling is we have a 99 percent shot at being back here in a few months."

At age 32, UV was taken away from us far too soon. But he will always be remembered for his athletic accomplishments and his coaching intensity. He compiled a career record of 15-15 as the George Mason head coach.

Acosta began his second season at the helm of Patriot volleyball in January. A year ago, Acosta led a thin and inexperienced squad to an 11-13 record. But more important than his record, the rookie coach spent the year infusing his tough-minded discipline while allowing his coaching philosophy to take root. His innovative offensive ideas helped keep opposing teams off balance, which not only generated more on-court excitement, but placed George Mason in position to challenge for the EIVA title and return to the upper echelon of East Coast Volleyball this year.

Acosta spent his first two coaching seasons patrolling the Patriot sideline as an assistant for both the men's and women's volleyball squads. As an assistant coach for the women's team, Acosta helped the Patriots win their fifth straight Colonial Athletic Association title in the fall of 1996, and advance to the NCAA Tournament for a fourth straight time.

One of the most well-known Patriots both nationally and internationally, Acosta was also an All-EIVA outside hitter who helped the Patriots compile a record of 96-23. The El Paso, TX native was a member of the USA Men's National team from 1989-92. During the 1991 World Cup, Acosta helped the U.S. Team win the bronze medal, and was voted "Best Defensive Player" by the international press.

His playing experiences also included the Super Four, World League, Spain Cup, the World Championships, the NORCECA Zone Championships, the NCAA Championships, and the inaugural Goodwill Games.

During the summer of 1996, Acosta served as an assistant coach for the Youth National team. He began his involvement with the USA National team programs as a player. In 1983, at the U.S. Olympic Festival, he earned a silver medal playing for the South team. He was also a member of the 1985 U.S. Junior National team where he garnered MVP honors at a competition in Finland.

During his four years with the National Team, Acosta recieved the 1990 Coaches Award and was an alternate on the 1992 Olympic Team. Acosta is survived by his mother Lourdes Arriola and a number of brothers and sisters.

USA VOLLEYBALL Teammates and Coaches
on Former National Team Star
Uvaldo Acosta's Death

Initial shock and sadness gave way to an outpouring of heartfelt tributes as the U.S. volleyball community reacted to the February 12 drowning death, in Hawaii, of Uvaldo Acosta, 32, who was in his second season as the head men's volleyball coach at George Mason University, and a member of the USA men's national volleyball team from 1989-1992.

"Uvaldo Acosta was one of the most popular athletes ever to have represented the United States in men's volleyball," said Jim Coleman, current general manager of USA national teams, whose relationship with the program now spans four decades. "He was a superb athlete who never lost the common touch...the ability to play and associate with the every-day volleyball player. He was a fierce competitor who never lost the joy of playing the game.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Bill Neville, head coach of the University of Washington's women's volleyball team and former head coach of the USA men's national team. "I feel honored to have had the opportunity to coach "UV" during his tenure with the national teams. He never had a bad practice because he always maintained a positive attitude, elevated those around him, and never said anything bad about anybody," Neville said. "He was on his way to becoming a great coach for all of the reasons he was a great person and player. When you lose a person like "UV" it makes you take pause and put everything in perspective, life just isn't fair sometime."

An outside hitter, Acosta's quickness, leaping ability, fiery on-court demeanor and guile helped overcome the disadvantage of his five-foot-ten-inch stature against blockers nearly a foot taller. The most heralded player in GMU men's volleyball history, Acosta earned All-America recognition three times while leading the Patriots to a 92-93 record during his four-year career, including a berth in the 1988 NCAA Final Four. Among the highlights of his tenure with Team USA was being voted by the international press "Best Defensive Player" of the 1991 World Cup, in which he helped lead the American squad to the bronze medal. He also competed in several prestigious international tournaments, including the World Championships, NORCECA Zone Championship, and the Goodwill Games.

"UV" was one of the most positive people I have ever known," adds men's national team assistant coach Rod Wilde, who was a team mate of Acosta's on the national team. "No matter what was going on in his life, on or off the court, UV would never lose his upbeat attitude. He would get disappointed, like anyone else, but never let it keep him down. He had one of the liveliest arms I've ever seen and a solid all-around game, but it was his attitude and sheer will power that gave him a unique ability to enter a match and turn around the momentum by himself", adds Wilde. "I'll never forget the time he hurt his right shoulder, and was told by the doctors he needed to rest it and stop swinging for about a month, but "UV" decided to just play for awhile swinging with his left arm, and within one week was winning all the hitting drills in practice."

Uvaldo Acosta, First Year Coaching Bio
(From George Mason University - 1997)

Former Patriot volleyball star Uvaldo Acosta begins his first season as the head coach of the men's volleyball program. Like himself, most of his players are newcomers to the Mason program, and together they hope to return the upper echelon of East Coast volleyball. His innovative offensive ideas will keep opposing teams off balance, which will not only generate more on-court excitement, but eventually more wins as well.

Acosta has spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach for both the men's and women's volleyball squads. As an assistant coach for the women's team, Acosta helped the Patriots with their fifth straight Colonial Athletic Association title in the fall of 1996, and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight time.

One of the most well-known Patriots both nationally and internationally, Acosta is a three-time All-American and All-EIVA outside hitter who left Dulles Airport in May 1989 for a tryout with Team USA and didn't return to the Washington, DC area until September 1990, when he was the starting swing hitter on the National Team touring with the Soviet Union.

During his four years with the National Team, Acosta received the 1990 Coaches Award and was voted the Best-Defensive Player by the international press at the 1991 World Cup. He was also an alternate on the 1992 Olympic team.

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