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Ryshytylo and Penner putting up a wall

3/5 - Providence’s women’s volleyball squad finished their season off with a bang as they grabbed the 2011 Manitoba Colleges Athletics Conference (MCAC) title on Saturday, March 5.

Providence entered the four-team tournament with the #3 seed after finishing regular season play with a 9-7 record and .525 win percentage. The Freemen started their weekend Friday evening with a match against the #2 Red River College Rebels. The two sides split their regular season match-ups 2-2 and shared identical 9-7 records, but the Rebels earned the higher seed due to a better set-win record.

Providence opened the match on fire and never looked back. An impressive series of cross-court hits from freshman Chelsea Needham (10 kills, 2 blocks, 2 digs) propelled the Freemen to a first-set 25-14 win. The veteran Vicky Ryshytylo (6 kills, 5 blocks, 3 digs) with a strong attack arsenal from top-to-bottom helped Providence finish a dominating performance with consecutive 25-13 and 25-17 set victories.

Needham was named the Game MVP, while freshmen Jessica Hamm (4 kills, 7 blocks, 5 digs, 3 aces) and Christa Penner (18 assists, 2 digs, 1 ace) also gave impressive performances in the first-round win.

“The ball seemed to be bouncing our way tonight and it really kept the momentum in our favor from start to finish,” Providence head coach Scott Masterson says. “We really tightened the screws in our game, felt extremely prepared for their style of play, and essentially executed our game plan to perfection.”

The Freemen then headed into the MCAC Championship game with the tough task of facing the defending MCAC champions, #1 Canadian Mennonite University. The Blazers squad flexed their muscles throughout the regular season, finishing with a 15-1 record. However, Providence also entered the match as the lone squad to defeat the Blazers this year.

“Knowing we had beaten them the last time we played gave us a lot of confidence coming into the match and I’m sure it planted a small seed of doubt in CMU’s minds as well,” coach Masterson says. “We just hoped both those factors would help us make it a competitive match.”

Needham goes up to swing

But the previous loss didn’t seem to faze the Blazers early on as they jumped out to an early 6-1 lead behind Evelyn Kampen’s strong services. Providence fought their way back into the match behind a huge stuff block from Ryshytylo, but the Blazers strong play and the Freemen’s passing struggles catapulted CMU into a convincing 25-19 set win.

The second set began much the same as the first, but the Lady Freemen were able to pick up their passing game and utilize their middle attack to bring Providence back into the set. Both squads then took numerous turns holding the lead and gave fans one of the weekend’s most memorable sets. However, a Madisson Stott stuff block shifted the set’s tide and allowed the Freemen to tie up the match with a 25-23 set win.

The Blazers weren’t ready to roll over though, and they rebounded by dominating the early portion of the third set to take an early 8-1 lead. Providence helped CMU’s cause as they continued to make unforced errors the Blazers didn’t let go to waste as they cruised to a 25-16 set victory to go up 2-1 in the match.

Determined not to give up their title, the Blazers jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the fifth set. But, following a timeout where coach Masterson regrouped the troops, Providence worked their way back into the match at a 4-4 tie. The two sides continued to swap points, but it was the Blazers who hit the midpoint of the set up 8-7. 

The two teams switched sides, and the new view seemed to be what the doctor ordered for the Lady Freemen as they worked to tie up the match at 10. From there Providence’s defensive and offensive play seemed to click, as the Freemen went on an impressive 5-0 run to take the set 15-10, win the match 3-2 and earn the women’s volleyball MCAC Championship banner for the first time in 11 years.

The win also marked the first time in four years that CMU did not win the title, and came during Providence’s first year back in the MCAC after a seven-year hiatus from the league.

“I am so proud of everyone on our team,” Coach Masterson says following the championship performance. “This was truly some high quality volleyball and it was great to see both teams battle so hard.”

“Obviously we are extremely excited we were able to come out with the win against such a strong team. We’ve worked really hard all year and we have a very young team, so to be able to pull it all together when it matters most is extremely rewarding.”

Hamm (7 kills, 5 blocks, 13 digs) was named the game MVP, while Ryshytylo (17 kills, 7 blocks, 5 digs), Madi Stott (10 kills, 12 blocks, 3 digs, 1 ace) and Christa Penner (41 assists, 6 blocks, 3 digs, 1 ace) all gave impressive performances as well.

Written by: Kaiten Critchlow           


A sweet victory for Providence
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