At the Break: Women’s Volleyball

MCAC Women’s Volleyball
*Current Standings as of December 28, 2016

Team                                                     W   L    Points
Providence University College Pilots 9    0 18
Canadian Mennonite University Blazers 7 3 14
Red River College Rebels 5 6 10
Les Rouges de l’Université de St-Boniface 4 4 8
Assiniboine Community College Cougars 2 6 4
University of Winnipeg College Wesmen 1 8 2

After a resounding win at home to capture the 2015-16 MCAC Championship, the Providence University Pilots have begun the 2016-17 season undefeated and have shown no sign of slowing down.

“The first half of our season has been great for the most part. Obviously being undefeated going into the second semester is fantastic and we don’t take that lightly, says Pilots Head Coach, Kyle Guenther”.

Perhaps not quite as humble as Guenther is the Pilot’s 27- 4 record for sets won and lost. After 9 games so far this season, only once have the Pilots lost multiple sets in a match. They won a 3-2 decision back on October 28th against l’Université de St-Boniface but otherwise have swept or given up just one set per game up to opponents.

“Our last match against CMU was a great battle. Overall, I am very happy with how we performed in the first semester”, adds Guenther. “Including our U.S. league (National Christian College Athletic Association Division II), we are 26-4 and have played a lot of really good volleyball. I am looking forward to finishing strong and hopefully giving ourselves a chance to win the last game of the season.”

That CMU Blazer team may not carry an undefeated record but they sit just 2 games back from the Pilots and have improved their rank among the MCAC this season. A scrappy team last season who didn’t quite feature the talent yet to contend against the rest of the field, the Blazers have added some depth to their lineup and Head Coach Evelyn Kampen believes the competition for court time should keep her deep bench involved.

“Our starting line-up faces a lot of pressure going into our second half of the season – which can be both a strength and weakness.  We have a deep bench and a lot of competitive players.”

The Blazers will also be adding Calgarian Jana Klassen to their lineup in 2017, a transfer coming from the University of Winnipeg’s CIS team after spending last season with the Wesmen.
“She is a confident and intelligent player who has played both libero and left side.  She has trained with us since October and I look forward to seeing her contributions in this second half”, says Kampen.

“I am extremely happy with our team development this first half of the season.  We have been improving each game and our confidence has increased tenfold.  Our team has gone through a number of adjustments this year and our starting line-up has changed significantly.”

Back on November 29th, the Blazers added a feather to their cap when they won the 2016 Western Canadian College Open Championship in Brandon, MB. It was the Blazer’s third Western Canadian Championship in school history and their first since they won it back to back in 2011 and 2010.

Falling to CMU in the Final of those Western Nationals was Red River College, sitting now in third place among the MCAC. Despite sitting only 4 points back from the Blazers, RRC lost the last 4 MCAC games they played before the break and are probably relieved to take a break from their 4 game skid.

“The biggest weakness we have is that we only have 8 players, says Rebels’ Head Coach Dan McGregor we had some injuries in the first half that made some games challenging and training load is something that we will have to manage over the second half of the season to ensure that we don’t burn out on our way to playoffs.

“I think that it is fair to say that we are the surprise team of the season so far and we will have our work cut out in the second half as teams now know that they can’t take us for granted.”

The Rebels haven’t gone unnoticed though, as the Blazers’ Kampen was quick to point out how much progress RRC has made in half a season.

“I’ve been very impressed with the transformation of the Red River Rebels team.  Dan McGregor has done an amazing job with organizing a team of 7/8? girls.  His players work hard and have unbelievable defence – they are a force to be reckoned with this year.”

Another team who has made a considerable leap this season is the 4th-place Les Rouges de l’Université de St-Boniface. USB has put together a very formidable 4-4 record so far despite having lost 2 captains and 4 starting players from last season.

Head Coach Martin Rochon, “knew going into the season there would be a new look to our team.  Having said that, the youthful energy demonstrated early in training camp has made for a positive learning environment for our team. With so many new faces, we knew it would take a couple months to gel as a team and develop rapport on the court.”

Les Rouges have won 16 sets and lost 16 sets in their first 8 games so far this season. USB and Assiniboine Community College have both played the least amount of their schedue so far, having only played 8 matches this season in comparison to Red River who has played 11 or CMU who’s played 10. Rochon expects parity within the rankings not just for his team but for the rest of the conference once play resumes.

“Going into the break we are in a good place, having steadily improved individually and as a team since September.”

The two teams in MCAC women’s volleyball that presently sit outside of playoff contention looking in were both main players in last season’s Championship. The Assiniboine Community College Cougars were a first-round exit after facing the buzzsaw that was Providence in one of last year’s Championship semi-finals, and The University of Winnipeg College Wesmen were favourites entering last year’s Final but now find themselves last in the conference with a 1-8 record. Unable to return a great deal of the talent that made them so dangerous a season ago, the Wesmen are in a rebuilding year and will need to get on a roll if they wish to make the MCAC Championship for a third-straight season.

The Cougars have 1 more win than the Wesmen and sit just 2 games back from 4th-place USB, and Head Coach Beth Clark hopes to stay away from the injury bug in the second half in order to have a more prosperous second half of the season.

“Our team has battled multiple injuries and illness in the first half. We’ve had players playing out of position in multiple games and it has hurt our consistency.”

The Cougars won both of their meetings with U of W and took sets off RRC earlier in the season when they dropped a 3-2 decision. 

“Our team needs to be more aggressive and rather than playing not to lose, we need to play to win. We have a deep bench which is a strength in games but it also means we need to be pushing each other harder in practices.”

Women’s volleyball will officially resume in the MCAC on January 6th when USB is hosted by ACC, the Cougars’ first crack at getting their record out of the red.

The MCAC Volleyball Final Four Championships will be hosted by Université de St-Boniface this season on February 25th and 26th, 2017.

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