Men's Volleyball Captures Second MCAC Championship In As Many Years
It happened at the University of St-Boniface in 2017 and it happened again at Red River College last weekend. For the second consectutive season the MCAC Men's Volleyball Final ended with a John Nieckarz stuff block and with the CMU Blazers lifting the Championship trophy.
It was pure jubilation on Sunday afternoon as the players reacted to the match-winning block, the entire squad surrounding the 6'4 right side to celebrate the team's second MCAC Championship in Men's Volleyball in as many years. With the regular season series between the Providence Pilots and CMU tied 2-2, it would be the defending Champions who would take this most important meeting of the season 3-0 by scores of 25-19, 25-18 and 25-22.
Without the services of fourth-year middle Willie Goossen, who suffered an ankle injury in Saturday's semifinal versus the Red River Rebels, Providence jumped ahead 4-0 in the first set, seizing momentum and suprising the Blazers who were brimming with confidence after eliminating the ever-dangerous USB Rouges the previous day. Back to back stuff blocks by Mackenzie Hildebrand and Jason Friesen allowed CMU to pull ahead late in the set, forcing a Pilots' timeout at 23-18. They would go on to win the set and grab a 1-0 advantage.
Nieckarz came to life from the service line in the second frame. The 2017 Championship Most Valuable Player blasted an ace with the score at 16-7 in favour of CMU to give his team a commanding ten-point lead. Nieckarz would score 5 aces on the day and added 8 kills in 16 attempts with only 2 errors. The ensuing Providence timeout sparked the Pilots to climb back into the set, but the gap was too large to close as the Blazers reached 25 points on a Providence attacking error at 24-18.
Pilots head coach, Scott Masterson did his best to put belief into his squad as his team entered the third set facing defeat. It would be a back and forth game with each team taking their turn at holding a one-point lead, only to see their opponent react with a big play to win a sideout. Pilot's middle hitter Brett Foley scored on a quick attack to make it 8-8. CMU would finally take a two-point lead and force a Providence timeout when Hildebrand scored on a service ace and Nieckarz slammed a kill to make the score 15-13.
Two big blocks would ultimately decide the set and they both came from Nieckarz. The third-year stuffed the Pilots' attack at 23-22 in favour of CMU to set up match-point. On the very next rally did it again to seal the match and the Championship for the Blazers.
Mackenzie Hildebrand would earn Championship MVP honours as the second-year left side built off his 15 kill performance in Saturday's semifinal with a 13 kill championship statline and added 2 aces, 3 stuff blocks and 6 digs. Raising the MCAC's Ed Zalusky Trophy was the perfect way for CMU fifth-year's Jason Friesen and Thomas Friesen to complete their university volleyball careers. The 2018 Graduates were instrumental in their team's win; Jason Friesen assisting on 31 kills and adding 2 kills and 2 blocks while libero Thomas Friesen contributed in the backrow with 8 digs.