Volleyball Championships 2016: Pilots upset Wesmen in wild 3-2 redemption of last year’s Final

Women’s Volleyball
Providence University College defeats University of Winnipeg College 3-2 (23-25, 19-25, 25-16, 25-18, 15-8)

After the first two sets of the 2016 women’s volleyball Final, the University of Winnipeg College Wesmen had all but erased the opposing Providence University College’s home crowd. Defending both the 2014 and 2015 MCAC Championship titles, the Wesmen got tasked with winning it this time with a building full of the other team’s fans. The team they faced in last year’s final – but harder.

Not surprisingly, UWC’s Jocelyn Bartos was a large part of the silence in the early stages of the final. The left side attacker was not only a high percentage swing out of the left side but her defense was outstanding. UWC’s Middle blocker Vanessa Shulz was one of the several heavy float serves that came from their side, regularly handcuffing PUC’s passers.

PUC’s setter and All-Conference selection Sam Bridle says even though the Pilots lost the second set to go down 2-0, that’s when she thinks her head coach Scott Masterson got through to her team and they finally started to play.

“We weren’t doing very good at the beginning, but at the end (of the second set) we took a couple timeouts and Scott talked to us and then we kinda knew. This was our last game, it’s now or never.”

That sense of urgency showed as Providence stormed back to win a very decisive 25-16 set over the Wesmen. Tournament MVP Shayna Staerk provided a tonne of offense for the Pilots and also cites her coach’s words at the game’s turning point.

“We had played them previously in the year and we had been down two sets to them at home and we came back and won in five so we definitely knew that it was possible. And our theme for the year was determination, and so Scott told us that now was the time, we had no more chances after this…”.

The Pilots won the fourth set in almost as dramatic a fashion as the third, letting UWC score only 18 after being so strong in the first set. UWC’s core offensive threats Talia Paetsch and Amanda Armour had great games and the Wesmen looked great throughout. The game’s third set was just such a shift in momentum that nothing seemed to get through PUC’s block and loose balls just couldn’t get returned properly.

The momentum stayed with the Pilots going into the fifth, the crucial first couple of points going in their favour. When they switched at 8-6 it finally appeared the hosts might win. Staerk would disagree, saying it was later than that.

“I didn’t know until we had 14 points, and then they were down. Because they fight hard so it could have gone either way. It’s hard not to kinda’ get excited when you’re winning in the fifth set”.

In the waning moments of the match the officials were forced to make a couple of close calls and the momentum just couldn’t swing for UWC. On a scramble play near the net, on an overcast Sunday afternoon with good visibility, the Pilots finally landed their title.

At the mention of her coach after the game, Staerk gets visibly emotional and she stumbles in explaining how much his leadership meant to PUC’s season, their lives, and today’s win.

“He cares so much about all of us as people…win or lose, he would’ve been proud of us. He’s just such a good role model of the type of people we want to be …it makes it really easy to play for him”.

Like Staerk, Bridle also cited the team’s motto as being a very suitable word for today’s win.

“We’ve always talked about determination. Being determined to touch everything, being determined to get to that ball no matter what, and I think that really paid off now”.

Amanda Armour was named the Wesmen’s Boston Pizza Player of the Game while Providence’s middle Savannah Friesen was named for PUC. Both women had an extremely strong tournament on the two best rosters in the conference.

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