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Fifth at NCVF Nationals

Freemen claim 5th at NCVF National Tournament

After flying through the five-game round-robin unblemished, the Freemen entered the Golden Bracket Sweet 16 on Saturday with hopes of being the last team standing Sunday afternoon. The squad started the day off with a dominant performance against the University of Wisconsin Stout to find themselves as one of the final 8 teams standing out of the original 64 teams competing only three days earlier. However, Providence’s impressive run was stopped there as they lost a tightly contested match to the University of Wisconsin La Crosse to be eliminated. The loss still left the Freemen with an outstanding 5th place finish in a tournament where they were by far one of the smallest-school competitors.

The Freemen started off their play in the Golden Bracket Saturday morning against the University of Wisconsin Stout. Freshman Delmer Krahn (10 kills, 2 stuff blocks, 3 aces) led the Freemen arsenal early on as Providence battled Stout to a first-set 25-20 victory. The Freemen freshmen then continued their outstanding play as Kevin Hildebrand (7 kills) and Dallen Klassen (5 kills) hammered out multiple blistering kills to scatter the Stout defense, and help clinch the Freemen victory with a dominant 25-12 set score. Sophomore Ryan Hamm once again led Providence’s defensive efforts as he continually initiated on-court conversation while finding time to pull out 4 digs.

“The match with Stout was never in doubt,” Freemen head coach Jason Peters commented following the game. “Our back row play was really solid, and they had no answers for us offensively.”

The win then set the Freemen up as one of the final eight teams remaining in the tournament and earned them a match-up against the University of Wisconsin La Crosse.

La Crosse was able to find the lead early on in the first set as the Freemen struggled to find consistency throughout. Providence put in a late surge, but in the end the U of W were able to take the set 25-20. The second set appeared to be much of the same, as La Crosse kept their momentum and jumped out to a 17-12 lead in a convincing fashion. However, Freemen veterans Hamm (8 digs) and BJ Harder were able to re-energize their squad with inspired play, and Providence capped off an improbable comeback to take the set 25-23.

The early results set up the two squads for a winner-takes-all final set with the winner moving into the Final Four, while the loser would see themselves earn fifth place honors.

The two powerhouses engaged in an epic struggle early on as both sides battled it out, and matched each other point after point until they found themselves deadlocked at 11. But it was La Crosse who was finally able to wedge a gap between the squads as they went on to steal the set 15-13. The Freemen found themselves with a balanced attack as Krahn (12 kills, 3 stuff blocks), Hildebrand (7 kills, 3 aces), and Klassen (6 kills) combined to lead the way offensively. Providence also saw consistent back row play from Hamm (8 digs) and freshman Josh Doerksen (5 digs).

“It was kind of a heartbreaker for our guys to have it all come down to 2 points,” coach Peters said of the game. “However, we played well enough to win. It is just one of those things.”

The loss ended the Freemen’s chances for earning the National Title, but the 5th place finish was more than a success for a young Freemen squad that will see many of its players return next season.

“In the end, we have achieved a 5th place finish, and took a major step forward for our program,” coach Peters commented. “The field in Div II was one of the strongest in recent memory, and we were right in the mix, with a legitimate chance to win it. We will definitely be back for more, as I would expect much of the team to return next season to take a run at a title. We will certainly be one of the favorites.”

“I am so proud of this group and how hard they have worked this year. This is one of the best groups that I have had to work with, and I feel truly blessed to have spent the year with then.”

Two Freemen athletes were also named for tremendous tournament and season-long performances. Sophomore Ryan Hamm was named NCVF Div II Top Libero, while also garnering First Team All-Tournament and First Team All-American awards. Freshman Delmer Krahn also earned attention as he was named to the All-Tournament Team and also received an All-American Honorable Mention.

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