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Pilots women’s volleyball team finishes second at NCCAA National Championship
For the second year in a row the Providence Pilots women’s volleyball team has come second at the National Christian College Athletic Association Division II National Championship.
Dropping only two sets in round robin play, the reigning Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference champions beat Oklahoma’s Randall University 3-0 before bowing out to Wisconsin’s Maranatha Baptist University, which claimed its second successive title.
Two Pilots players were recognized with All-American status, three were named to the All-Tournament Team and one was honoured as a Scholar-Athlete.
“This was nothing short of an incredible week,” exclaims head coach Kyle Guenther, who won the NCCAA North Region Coach of the Year award earlier this month. “Overall, I am incredibly proud of our team.”
The Pilots flew through their round robin schedule with ease, beating Manhattan Christian College of Kansas in straight sets and requiring just four frames to see off both Texas-based Arlington Baptist College and Kentucky Christian Collge.
“We played well on the first day in the Manhattan and Arlington matches,” says Guenther. “Against Kentucky we came out stronger in most categories and topped a very good team to win our pool.”
What followed was the Pilots’ best match of the season.
“It was the closest thing I’ve seen to flawless volleyball from our team,” remarks Guenther. “Start to finish, we executed perfectly. We handled the number-four team in the nation so well in three quick sets. It was so much fun to watch the women enjoy the moment and play so well on the big stage.”
Providence took the first two sets against Randall 25-17 and 25-14 before wrapping up the semi-final by winning the third set 25-23.
Maranatha, however, retained their unbeatable form in the November 19 final and defeated Providence in straight sets, although the Pilots pressed their opponents to a 25-21 score in the third.
“In the final it just wasn’t our day,” recalls Guenther. “Maranatha played really well and we weren’t at our best, as we were earlier in the tournament. But once again we’ve proved to be one of the best teams in the nation, and we have so much to be proud of after our NCCAA season.”
Individually, three Pilots were recognized as having had exceptional tournaments, as each of Sara Barker, Sam Bridle and Shayna Staerk were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Staerk, who led her squad with 65 kills over the weekend, also contributed 51 digs, and Barker added 30 kills and 11 blocks. Bridle made 158 assists.
A third-year setter from Winnipeg, Bridle also earned NCCAA First-Team All-American distinction, and second-year left side Danella Alvaro—also a Winnipegger—was selected a Second-Team All-American. Steinbach’s LaRae Driedger, who is in her third season as a right-side with the Pilots, was honoured as a Scholar Athlete.
From here, Providence will return to MCAC action and will visit the University of Winnipeg College on Sunday. They have three matches remaining between now and Christmas, after which they’ll be looking to seal top spot in the standings and defend their MCAC title.
The 2016-17 MCAC play-offs will take place February 25-26 at Winnipeg’s Universite de Saint-Boniface.
(Back row: Kyle Guenther, Danella Alvaro, Isla Moyer, Sara Barker, Savannah Friesen, Ally Grafe, Ryan Hamm, Katelyn Corbyn; front row: Hannah Sabatier, Caroline Seale, LaRae Driedger, Shayna Staerk, Sam Bridle, Bethany Toet, Jillana Groening.)


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