Monday, February 26, 2018
The Providence Pilots women’s volleyball team dropped just one set and allowed more than 19 points only once in two matches en route to the 2018 Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference Volleyball Championship.
Going into last weekend’s play-offs as the top seed in the province the Pilots beat the Assiniboine Community College Cougars and Canadian Mennonite University Blazers to secure a second MCAC title in three years. The men’s team, also the top seed, dispatched the Red River College Rebels in four sets before losing the championship match in straight sets to CMU.
After watching the Blazers progress to Sunday’s final thanks to a Saturday victory over the host Rebels, the Providence women swept the Cougars 25-18, 25-18, 25-19. Then, in their showdown with CMU, they raced out to a two-set lead before dropping a close third frame and prevailing 25-11 in the fourth.
“I am so proud of this team,” gushed head coach Kyle Guenther after his players received their medals and the MCAC trophy. “We’ve been working towards this moment for six months, and to cap it off with a championship means so much. Our team has shown so much character in getting through a long season. Through it all we’ve stuck together as a team, as friends and as a family.”
Guenther pointed out that the Pilots peaked at exactly the right time and played some of their best volleyball at the most crucial part of the campaign.
“Our offense was spread out nicely, and our passing was some of the best I’ve seen all year. We also played incredible defense,” he said. “We barely let anything score against us all weekend, which is a mindset more than anything else.”
LaDawn Friesen executed 20 kills over the course of the weekend and graduating senior Shayna Staerk added 14 kills, 3 aces and 20 digs. Sam Bridle, also graduating in the spring, contributed an impressive 70 assists to go along with 5 aces and 11 digs.
In the men’s tournament the Pilots dropped the first set of their semi-final against the Rebels before taking the next three 25-22, 25-21, 25-21. It was, according to Providence head coach Scott Masterson, Red River’s “best match of the season,” and despite winning in four the Pilots lost middle Willie Goossen to injury.
On Sunday the Blazers prevailed 3-0 over the Pilots to retain their title. As Masterson pointed out, CMU made few unforced errors, served well and blocked effectively.
“I thought we started the match very well, and it felt as though we were in control for the first half to three-quarters of the way through that first set,” he said. “Then we gave up a big run to end the first set and gave up a huge run to start the second. I thought we responded very well and stayed focussed on trying to find a way to keep battling for the third set, but once again CMU made big plays when it mattered most.”
Matt Friesen led the way for the Pilots through Saturday and Sunday with a combined 29 kills, 6 blocks and 8 digs, and graduating senior Lucas Pappel added 84 assists.