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: http://bit.ly/VBallFinal4s