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Intense in Iowa
Warkentin looks to connect with Schapansky

3/5- The men’s volleyball squad travelled to the University of Iowa last weekend to compete in the annual cross-conference tournament.

After sweeping the first two games in round-robin play, the Freemen split the second round of games to move into a tough quarter-final match-up against the University of Missouri. Providence would take the match without giving up a set, but then fell to the conference rival (the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire) to end the run for the tourney title (in semi-finals).

The tournament format saw the Freemen start the weekend in a three-team pool with the U of Northern Iowa and U of Wisconsin Oshkosh B. After their opening round performances Providence would then see themselves earn a ranking out of the 21 teams in the tourney based on their sets won and points allowed.

In their first match they went head-to-head with the U of N. Iowa. Providence started the match out on a shaky note and let N. Iowa stay tight early on. But the Freemen quickly got their legs under them and moved on to sweep their opponents in three straight sets.

Providence next faced a U of Wisc. Oshkosh B squad who were also working off an opening round win against N. Iowa. Oshkosh B quickly established themselves in the game, jumping out to an early 8-2 lead. However, following an animated timeout and behind some inspired play from Kevin Hildebrand, the Freemen found their swagger to turn the tide and cruise to another three-set victory.

After winning both round robin games by sweeping opponents, the Freemen earned the #3 seed for the best-of-three-set playoff round.

The seeding earned the squad an opening round match-up against the #1 ranked - and host school - the U of Iowa. In a set that saw more changes than a model on the catwalk, Providence and Iowa went back and forth until Iowa pulled ahead by two in extra points at 32-30. The two squads would then show fans another epic battle in the second set, but Iowa was clutch once again as they pulled off the 25-23 set win to take the match 2-0.

The loss left the Freemen in a win-or-die situation as they faced off against the same squad that knocked them out of the tournament a year earlier (the U of Wisconsin Whitewater). However, this year’s action told a different story, as veteran’s Josh Friesen and Dallen Klassen brought out their power games to lead their side to avenge last year’s defeat with a two-set sweep over Whitewater.

The win meant the Freemen would entertain the U Missouri S and T in Sunday’s quarterfinal match. Both of the match’s sets shared a similar story, as the two teams would remain tight until the 15-point mark only to see the Freemen pull ahead late in each set. The Freemen took the first set with ease, but in the second set, S and T mounted a late run as they tried to keep their tournament hopes alive. However, Hildebrand snuffed out the comeback attempt by pulling out a monstrous stuff block in a one-on-one situation late in the set to secure the two-set sweep and move on in the tourney.

Conference rival (U of Wisconsin Eau Claire) finally remained as the last squad standing between the Freemen and their goal to make it into the tourney finals in a Sunday afternoon match.

Providence’s momentum seemed to come to a halt early on though, as Eau Claire jumped out ahead early on and never allowed the Freemen to gain traction as they eased their way to a first set win. Eau Claire continued their high level of play and execution into the second set, and the Freemen weren’t able to elevate enough to keep themselves in it. Eau Claire went on to sweep the match to leave the Freemen with a more than respectable third place finish in the 21-team tourney.

Providence head coach Jason Peters says, overall, he was happy with his squad’s performance over the grueling three-day tourney.

“This was a good weekend and a pretty good result for us,” Peters says. “We played, and beat a series of division one teams throughout the weekend and we had every chance to win the tournament.

“We still have lots of work to do before our Conference tournament at the end of March, and the National Championships in early April, but we have come a long way in the past month, and if we continue to improve at this rate we have a good shot for a great result to finish our year.”

The squad was led statistically over the weekend by Delmer Krahn (54 kills), Friesen (38 kills), Hildebrand (36 kills, 5 stuff blocks, 8 aces), Klassen (34 kills, 20 digs), Paul Warkentin (161 assists, 6 stuff blocks, 6 aces) and Ryan Hamm (24 digs).

Written by: Kaiten Critchlow

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