By Cassidy Dankochik

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The Red River Rebels can finally call themselves Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference (MCAC) Champions.

The underdog Rebels came into the final four as the third ranked seed, and a below 0.500 regular season record, but that didn’t stop them from defeating the higher-seeded University of St. Boniface in the semi-finals, and Canadian Mennonite University in a dramatic final that needed all five sets.

The Rebels had never won the MCAC women’s volleyball championship, but thanks to a gritty defensive game, they were able to take home the championship. Red River changed the game on defense, as they put multiple blockers in front of nearly every CMU attack.

Head coach Dan McGregor was relying on his team to step up on defense and use their size to find success.

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“We have some big players that have played a fair amount,” he said. “The players did a great job of reading what was happening.”

Second-year setter Cloe Orteza won player of the game for the Rebels.

Red River entered the year not having a natural setter. Late in the season Orteza stepped into the role and flourished, organizing the attack for Red River. She relied on her experience as a hitter when making the shift.

Orteza was battling injuries all year, including a torn meniscus, which she played through in the finals.

“My athletic therapist just taped my leg to my body,” she said with a chuckle after the finals.

The Rebels relied on Ashley Goodwin and Allison Kryschuk to bring offense as hitters. Goodwin played more straight forward on the left, while Kryschuk brought a bit more creativity and finesse from the right-hand side.

Orteza broke down exactly what each player brought to the attack.

“(Goodwin) towers over the other team, so I know when I’m in trouble or there’s a bad pass, I can use her for an outlet and she’ll score.”

“On the Right side, (Kryschuk) just knows where the holes are, she’s got a great volleyball IQ. It’s a mind game out there.”

Red River College’s men’s volleyball team failed to qualify for the playoffs.