Nothing Short Of Perfection; Blazers Win Volleyball Gold In Straight Sets
Peaking at the right time in the season is key to every championship run, and that was certainly the case for CMU on Sunday afternoon when the Blazers kept their undefeated streak going in 2020, upsetting the top-ranked USB Rouges 3-0 to raise their first Manitoba Colleges banner since 2017. The win was sweet for CMU, who were able to celebrate their gold medals on home court, inspired by raucous audience of loud CMU supporters in the Loewen Athletic Centre.
Despite their involvement in Saturday's most dramatic semifinal, USB didn't show any signs of letting up as they took the court for the Gold Medal match on Sunday. The heart of the Rouges was on display as they overcame a 0-2 deficit to top the Assiniboine Cougars in five sets in the longest match of Day 1.
The Rouges jumped out to an early lead thanks to 2020 MCAC Most Valuable Player, Zoe Savoie who spiked USB into a 1-0 lead with a big kill. Evenly matched, the Blazers and Rouges exchanged points for much of the championship's opening set, with CMU eventually taking their first significant lead of four points at 17-13 when middle Mackenzy Groot connected on a step-attack that painted the back line. Moments later, the Blazers would force a USB timeout at 18-13 after Jana Klassen scored her fourth kill of the first set. CMU's lead of 5 stretched to 7, forcing a second USB timeout at 21-14. The Blazers would eventually take a 1-0 lead with a final set score of 25-21.
CMU held the momentum of the opener into the second set, building a lead of 5-1 before USB head coach Evan Turenne called for time. Groot scored her second kill of the match for the Blazers fourth point and followed it with a her first stuff block of the match for the fifth. A kill from Sadie McTavish, her sixth of the match, gave CMU an 11-3 lead in the set and force the second timeout of the set. the Blazers would go on to win the set 25-17 for a commanding 2-0 spread.
After a USB run of four points tied the third set 9-9, a CMU attacking error, tied at 11, allowed the Rouges to take their first lead of the set and cause CMU head coach Jayme Menzies to take a timeout. Her talk prompted an immediate recovery. Starting with Klassen's 7th kill of the match for a CMU sideout, Chloe Friesen stepped to the line to serve for five CMU points and a 17-13 lead. Friesen shone from the service line, recording a match-high 3 aces.
Klassen championed the Blazers sprint to the finish, scoring points 18 and 22 for her 8th and 9th kill of the match, all part of Jessica Edel's four-point service run. Then the fifth-year left side capped her university career, serving for the match; a point that came by way of a McTavish tip that counted CMU's 25th point and set the whole Blazer's squad into a crescendo of leaps, shouts and hugs.
The match-winning kill helped McTavish earn the MCAC's nod for Championship Most Valuable Player. The 5'9 third-year capitalized on 8 kills over the three-set final, a was a force for her team defensively in the backrow and at the net.
Few in the MCAC expected to see the Blazers celebrating a championship this year, after CMU managed only three wins out of their opening nine conference matches leading up to the Christmas break. "We peaked at the right time", Klassen told a reporter when asked about their unexpected 2020 run. "We built confidence and became a resilient and focused group and that was reflected in our games. Getting to end my career alongside such an amazing group of people is definitely something that I will remember for a lifetime and winning with them means that much more."