They know how to keep their final matches dramatic. More importantly, they know how to come out on top.
For the third straight year, the Providence University College Lady Freemen are the women’s volleyball champions – and for the third straight year their match was highly competitive.
Facing the #3-seed and host Red River Rebels, Providence gave up the first set, but won the next three in succession, returning to the championship glory they also earned in 2011 and 2012.
Third-year power Chelsea Needham, unstoppable on the outside for most of the weekend, walked away with tournament MVP honours.
In the first set, a few unforced errors for the Lady Freemen gave the early jump to the Rebels. Fighting back behind power attacks from Needham and regular season MVP Lauren Toews, Providence would take a 19-13 lead. After that, though, All-Conference left side Natalie Manicotto rattled off three brilliant serves to complete a Red River comeback that earned them a 45-minute, gruelling opening set.
Providence, though, would get the gears churning in the second. Coming off the bench, serve specialist Elysia Shumka put down four straight points behind the line to put the Lady Freemen up. Despite a Rebels comeback midway through the set, it was again Toews who came through clutch, this time with the jump serve, to close out a 25-16 set win.
Again, Providence jumped out to a lead in the third. Middle Heidi Martens was impressive, with two stuff blocks and great vision on attack placement, putting her team up 9-3. Despite struggles with passing early in the set, middle Taylor Bain, along with Manicotto, made clutch plays from the back row to keep it close. Ultimately, though, the Rebels couldn’t make it all the way back in the set, falling 25-22.
The crowd became a factor in the fourth set. With half the Notre Dame Campus gym on their side, Providence pounced again – playing what might be their cleanest and most impressive set of the season, considering the stakes. Leading by as many as 13, they closed it down with a 25-13 set win, earning them the championship.
For Red River College, third-year setter Janessa Harder was named player of the game for her efforts in her last game as a Rebel. Providence power Kate Osadchuk put in a solid all-around game for her player of the game award.
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