Men's Volleyball Makes Statement For MCAC In OCAA Preseason Tournament
How competitive is the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference, you may ask? Men's Volleyball showed that they can rally with Ontario's top college programs this weekend in the 2017 Seneca Sting Challenge, an annual preseason tournament attended by the OCAA's best teams.
CMU was entered into Pool A with the likes of the 2017 OCAA Gold Medalists and Bronze Medalists (Mohawk Mountaineers and Fanshawe Falcons, respectively) as well as the Sheridan Bruins and Canadore Panthers and challenged the tournament hosts, Seneca Sting, in exhibition action last Thursday.
On Thursday night the Blazers handed the Sting a 3-1 (25-14, 25-20, 20-25, 25-17) defeat. Seneca held a record of 7-11 in the 2016-17 OCAA season.
Tournament action began on Friday afternoon with CMU's biggest test, when the Blazers faced the defending OCAA Champions Mohawk Mountaineers who held a record of 18-2 in the 2016-17 season and were the winners of the 2016 Seneca Sting Challenge. After dropping the first set 25-27, the Blazers battled back to draw even with a 29-27 win in the second set. Momentum swung back to the Mountaineers in the third, 19-25 but again CMU climbed back in the fourth 25-22 to force a fifth set. From serving to defense to scoring, it was all Manitoba in the tiebreaker, as the Blazers went on to a 15-9 victory and a big match win for themselves and for Manitoba.
From there, CMU rolled with wins over the Fanshawe Falcons and Sheridan Bruins to earn their first Championship appearance in nine years of tournament participation.
"Our depth is what got us through this tournament," said head coach Don Dulder, "we had some injuries and sick players and the rest of the guys were able to play really well. They won us matches and got us through the pool play and into the Final."
The Challenge Final had the Pool B Champions battle the Pool A Champions as CMU took the court across from the Georgian Grizzlies; keepers of a perfect regular season record in the OCAA in 2016-17 (18-0) but a team that exited the 2017 OCAA Championships prematurely, missing out on the medals. The Grizzlies prevailed with a 1-3 win (21-25, 15-25, 26-24, 23-25) to claim first place in the preseason tournament.
The Sting Challenge confirmed two things. First, the Georgian Grizzlies and CMU Blazers are the teams to beat in their respective provincial conferences. Second, the CMU Blazers and the MCAC can compete with the top CCAA programs in Canada.
CMU begins Manitoba conference play on October 27th in Otterburne to face the Providence Pilots.