Pilots earn first CCAA nationals berth in program history
The Providence Pilots men’s volleyball team made program history Feb. 26, locking up their first appearance at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) national championships in Toronto.
Providence made it look easy, not dropping a set over the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference (MCAC) championships, defeating third ranked Assiniboine Community College (25-18, 25-19, 26-24) and taking down the top-ranked Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) Blazers (25-23, 25-22, 25-20) on the campus of the University of St Boniface.
Pilots head coach Cody Quiring was ecstatic after the final, crediting every player on the team for getting the victory. The coach has announced this will be his final year coaching Providence.
“Credit where credit is due, those guys on our roster, they battled all year,” Quiring said.
“We faced a lot of adversity, a lot of injuries, and guys stepped up when they needed to.”
It was clear from the first set that championship adrenaline was running through both teams, with hitters flying through the air to deliver strong kills throughout the match.
Quiring was quick to praise CMU and their coach, Don Dulder. Dulder helped build the Niverville High School volleyball program to the AAAA level before leaving for the college level.
“(CMU) did not make it easy on us whatsoever,” Quiring said.
“The scoreline didn’t show how difficult of a match that really was.”
Defending those vicious attacks for Providence was libero Hector Ortiz, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player for his efforts.
“Coming into this weekend, we knew it would be hard, but we got the job done,” Ortiz said after the match, his voice hoarse from shouting in celebration.
“We had each other’s backs, every single time, every single play. We never let our teammates down, we were ready to fight for them, and that made a great difference.”
While players celebrated on the court, fans in the stands were with them for every point, as Providence supporters were eager to see both the men’s and women’s teams play in their respective MCAC finals.
The Providence men’s basketball team even mobbed their volleyball counterparts after the trophy presentation.
“Hat’s off to our crowd, our crowd travelled insanely well,” Quiring said.
“I appreciate Pilots nation to help us to that victory.”
Earning the program’s first-ever CCAA nationals spot was “special” according to Quiring, who said the goal in Toronto is to win a medal.
“We’re ready to fight every game,” Ortiz said on the national championships.
“All the teams in Canada have a good level, but we are ready to fight.”
After the conclusion of the men’s final, Quiring and Providence women’s coach Kyle Guenther shared an embrace and words of encouragement. Guenther will also be leaving the Pilots this year.
“We’re best friends off the court, and we’re best friends on,” Quiring said.
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster this year, knowing the transition that’s coming. We share a lot of ups and downs together, and that’s one opportunity where we got to share a really big up.”
Unfortunately for Guenther and the women’s team, they couldn’t convert the volleyball sweep for Providence, as they came up one set short, losing the final to St Boniface 3-2 (21-25, 26-24, 21-25, 25-22, 15-12).
Both teams put on a defensive clinic throughout the entertaining match, with each team at times looking poised to win all five sets. Providence appeared to have the championship locked up in the fourth set, as the Pilots took an early 9-2 lead into a potential decisive set, but St Boniface clawed back to force a fifth set they would eventually win.