Better late than never for Rebels

Red River College defeats Canadian Mennonite University 3-2 (20-25, 25-21, 18-25, 26-24, 17-15)

Ask anyone within earshot of this year’s volleyball Final Fours in Otterburne and they’ll tell you this was the game of the day. And not just because it was the only game that didn’t end in a decisive 3-sets-to-none decision, either. Just when this game looked all sewn up, the Red River College Rebels managed to bust it open.

It appeared the game was wrapping up late in the fourth set when CMU – who had controlled most of the court and much of the crowd – gave Red River College an inch. And before fans could pop outside and warm up their cars, the Rebels turned it into a mile.

Midway through the fourth, All-Conference left side Joel Kliewer ran a quick 30 for CMU to perfection and tied the score at 9 apiece. Up until that point, fellow All-Conference Blazer John Neickarz had been dominating the left side of the net alongside Kliewer who took full advantage of a Rebels squad that didn’t look ready. But whether they were ready or not, they were still in a tight game, late in the fourth set.

After stealing a back and forth tug-of-war in the fourth, the Rebels came storming out in the fifth and appeared to take an already stunned CMU team by surprise. They switched sides with the Rebels up 8-5 in the final frame and both teams traded points until CMU’s middle Owen Baerg tumbled a serve off the net and just into play. The ensuing free ball ended in another thumping on behalf of left side Neickarz, puttng CMU up 13-12.

Once again, it looked like CMU had knocked off the MCAC’s defending champion. But once again, the Rebels rallied and just barely found their 17th point of the set to eke out the win.

Given his size and demeanor on the court, one might think that RRC’s rookie setter Zac McCarthy would be a sitting duck for the heavy arms of Kliewer and Neickarz in the front row. McCarthy is listed at 5’10” and always looks like the calmest on the court. But he also made the 2016 All-Conference team for a reason, and today he wasn’t convinced it was time to roll the season over.

“We’re just two equally matched teams, we just go shot for shot, really”, says McCarthy. It’s been like that all season so it’s just whoever has more heart at the end of the match”.

When asked if it looked like it all might have been over in the fourth set, McCarthy admits it was starting to look bleak.

“Yeah, kinda. We’ve gone to five sets now, three times this season with these guys. So we were hoping for the fifth set and it was a close one”.

The Rebels will defend their title tomorrow against host Providence at 3:00 pm.

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