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Blazers and Pilots win Gold at MCAC Volleball Championships hosted by RRC

February 26, 2018

The Canadian Mennonite University Blazers are Back-to-Back MCAC Men’s Volleyball Champions

Story by Neil Noonan/MCAC

The Canadian Mennonite University Blazers are back-to-back champions after defeating the number one seeded Providence Pilots 3-0 in the 2018 MCAC Men’s Volleyball Championship on Sunday.The top two team’s in the conference came into the weekend’s Final Four with identical 13-3 records, and did not disappoint in the heavyweight finals matchup.

The Pilots got off to a hot 4-0 start in the first set, with a massive kill from conference MVP Matthew Friesen and a pair of blocks from all-conference selection Brett Foley. The Blazers got back into it with their serving, both John Neickarz and Carter Hofer connected on their own aces that foreshadowed what Providence would be facing for the rest of the match.

Friesen broke an 8-8 tie with a huge kill from the right side then followed it up with an ace of his own. Tournament MVP Mackenzie Hildebrand came out of a Blazer timeout with a massive smash to inch back into down 9-12, then Adam Tallaksen came retaliated with back to back hits from the right side to maintain the lead for the top seed.

After reaching an 18-18 tie, the Blazers went on a three-point run for their first lead of the set that forced a Providence timeout. Right out of the timeout, the Blazers front line made two straight blocks at the net to force another one from Pilots coach Scott Masterson. Tallaksen who remained a bright spot for the Pilots in the opening set killed another on right side, before Hildebrand came right back at ’em the next rally to win the set 25-19 for the Blazers.

Momentum continued for the Blazers in the second going up 8-2 before another Providence timeout. The Pilots continued to have a difficult time returning Blazers big man John Neickarz’s powerful serves, which came as no surprise, as Neickarz was fourth in the conference this season with 35 aces.

The Blazers were playing solid, mistake-free volleyball, coming up with every ball and capitalizing on their serving. After finding themselves down double digits and spending most of the frame chasing dug balls, Masterson took another timeout looking to correct things, but nothing seemed to change and the Blazers rolled to a 25-18 second set win.

With their backs up against the wall, Providence never looked to give up hope. Their team spirit remained high and everyone continued to encourage each other, regardless of being down two sets to zero.

After a thrilling minute-long rally, Pilots outside hitter Brett Foley came in with a smash to tie it up at eight. The third set was the tightest, with neither team able to build a lead larger than a few points. Both teams missed on serves coming down the stretch and came out of a Blazers timeout squared at twenty-two.

The championship game concluded with a solo block from Neickarz, the Blazers unsung hero on the afternoon, to take the third and final set 25-23.

In an unlikely sweep, the Blazers become the first men’s volleyball team to win back-to-back championships since Red River College won in 2010 and 2011.

Makenzie Hildebrand was named tournament MVP for his monster hits, play at the net, and enthusiam on the court.

Congratulations to all the hardworking student-athletes who competed all season and represented their schools with the utmost class.

The Providence Pilots are the 2018 MCAC Women’s Volleyball Champions

The Providence Pilots are the 2018 MCAC Women’s Volleyball Champions after defeating the Canadian Mennonite University Blazers 3-1 on Sunday.

In front of a packed house at Red River College, the two teams bounced the lead back and forth throughout the first set. The Pilots thrived off some stellar serving from Danella Alvaro and Shayna Staerk, while the Blazers converted at the net with hits and blocks. Providence started to take off down the stretch and pushed their lead to six as they closed out the first set 25-19.

Through the first ten points in the second frame, the Pilots and the Blazers were capitalizing on each other’s mistakes and keeping it close. Once the game tightened up, Blazers Renee Desroches and Pilots Samantha Bridle started setting up some beautiful kills for their hitters.

Staerk had three straight plays on the left side to break the tie and push the Pilots ahead 15-12 then stepped behind the service line to extend their lead to five forcing a Blazers timeout.

The heavy hitters from Providence kept it coming as both Alvaro and LeDawn Friesen drove the ball into the hardwood on consecutive possessions. All-Conference middle Sara Barker drilled home the final ball of the set for the Pilots that took it 25-17.

Bridle quickly put the Pilots up three with some brilliant serves at the start of the third set, but fellow setter Desroches came back and followed suit with her own to take the lead 4-3.

Blazers middle, Chloe Friesen, had some momentum shifting plays at the net midway through the set, connecting on a couple kills and making a solo block. She kept the hot streak going behind the line and extended the Blazers lead to 15-11 forcing a Pilots timeout.

The lead grew to six near the end of the set, but the Pilots came out of their second timeout with a three-point streak of their own to cut the lead in half. At 22-19, Sara Barker played it safe behind the serving line and ended up taking advantage of two Blazers’ errors to cut it down further, but it wasn’t enough as the underdogs took their first set 25-21.

Pilots to ownership of the next set from the get-go highlighted by a shattering solo-block from Savannah Friesen that could be heard throughout the gym. Caroline Seale was also all over the place for her Pilots, making the most of her knee pads consistently keeping her team in rallies with hustle plays.

The Providence crowd grew louder as the victory became closer and the Blazers fans on the opposite side began to deflate. Down 24-10, the Blazers gave one last push before Shayna Staerk punched the championship point home for the Pilots.

Samantha Bridle was named MVP of the tournament for her leadership on the floor, flawless setting, and hustle plays.