Freemen Upset Defending Champs in Final

In what will likely prove to be the most thrilling women’s volleyball match the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference will see for years to come, the three-time defending champion Canadian Mennonite University Blazers attempted to defend their title against a surging Freemen team from Providence College.
The #1 ranked Blazers came out hot early, gaining a 6-1 lead on strong serving from two-time regular season MVP Evelyn Kampen. The #3 seeded Freemen responded with huge stuff blocks from Jessica Hamm and all-conference middle Victoria Ryshytylo. However, it was the Blazers who ended up taking the opening set 25-19.
Scoring in the second was opened by a powerful smash from Providence’s Ryshytylo. Her commanding offensive play, along with a timely block on the powerful Kampen by Madisson Stott, appeared to change the match’s momentum as the Freemen took the set 25-23.
However, the third was dominated by the Blazers as they stormed to 7-1 and 15-7 leads on several ill-timed and unforced Providence errors before taking the frame 25-16.
The fourth set was clearly the most exhilarating of all, as two-point leads were exchanged until Freemen all-conference selection Chelsea Needham served up a beauty of an ace, forcing Blazer head coach Andrea Charbonneau to call a timeout trailing 18-15. Providence’s Stott served up another ace for the Freemen, extending their lead to 20-16 before CMU’s Kampen answered with a crushing attack to bring the Blazers back to within two at 20-18.
A pair of Ryshytylo kills moved the Freemen closer to tying the match at 2 sets each, but it was a Micaela Zalensky ace on set-point that gave the Freemen a ‘turning-point’ 25-19 victory.
The final set saw CMU come out to a quick 4-0 lead, prompting Freemen head coach Scott Masterson to call a clearly necessary timeout to calm his team. It seemed to work as Ryshytylo attacks brought the game back to a 4-4 tie. At 7-7 and 10-10, Providence continually set quicks to the middle, and eventually gained a 12-10 lead after a near-marathon rally of defensive digs that exhilarated the crowd. At 13-10 CMU called a timeout, but the Freemen kept the pressure on, taking the set 15-10, and earning their first MCAC volleyball crown.
“By beating them in our last (regular season) match, I think it put a little bit of doubt in their minds,” said Scott Masterson following the championship upset. “But to pull through and execute today in this high-pressure situation is really unbelievable.”
Victoria Ryshytylo’s superb tournament earned her Final 4 MVP honours, while teammate Jessica Hamm and Blazer Kirsten Hamm were named players of the game.

2011 Final 4 MVP Victoria Ryshytylo

By Darrin Bauming

Full tournament results, awards, and more here:

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