Kings excited about crop of players
Losing their complete starting lineup from last season would have left a lot of coaches shaking their heads.
Not so with RDC Kings volleyball head coach Aaron Schulha.
“We graduated all our starters, so we’ll have a new group, but I feel we have the talent to be even better than last year,” said Schulha, whose squad finished fifth at the Canadian championships. ‘We’ve bene in theb top two for the past two years and I’m tired of that. I feel we have the talent to win it all.”
The Kings lost all seven of the regulars from last season, including libero Matt Saunders, but have six returnees with a solid recruiting class, which includes six-foot-four outside hitter Tim Finnigan, a Notre Dame grad, who played the last two years with the SAIT Trojans.
“Tim was looking at transferring to the University of Calgary, but it didn’t work out for him plus he wanted to switch from the right side to the left and felt this would be a good chance to do that,” explained Schulha. “As well his brother, Anthony, is here and he’s good friends with Trent (Schmidt) so it worked out that way.”
Schulha also has a pair of imports in camp in six-foot-eight Chris Osborn from Arizona and six-foot-three setter Sam Brisbane from Australia.
Osborn, who is 25, played NCAA basketball at the University of Irvine before switching to volleyball. He played at the University of Manitoba in 2009 as a middle blocker before playing in Korea on the left side. He then switched to Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops before deciding to attend RDC where he can work on playing the right side.
“He has the size and jumping ability to be a dominant player in the ACAC,” said Schulha. “He’s relatively young in terms of volleyball, but he’s working hard and fits in nicely. Plus playing NCAA basketball he’s used to the crowds and a little pressure and won’t let that bother him.”
As for Brisbane, Schulha didn’t know much about him, but was looking for a setter after Jackson Maris decided to switch to the U of C after one year at RDC.
“(Former King) Nick Bell (from Australia) put in a good word for us and Sam has looked good after being ill the first few days here.”
Brisbane will battle Travis Czainski, who is in his third year, for the starting position.
“Travis is a definite leader, a real competitor and has looked good,” said Schulha. “It should be an interesting battle between the two.”
Schmidt and Jordan Gardiner return in the middle with Patrick McIntyre at libero and Chris Jones and Braden O’Toole on the outside.
“Neither of our middles are overly big but Jordan started about half the season last year and Trent got a lot of playing time because of injuries,”
said Schulha. “They both did the right things during the summer and should fill that role nicely.”
Six-foot-six Jonah Gilham, who is a Red Deer native before moving to Medicine Hat in Grade 10, will backup in the middle. Schulha believes Gilham will eventually switch to the outside, but “right now we have a lot of depth on the outside.”
Tim Finnigan and Jones and O’Toole will work on the left side with Anthony Finnigan and Mark Ritter of Westlock on the depth chart. Eric Steenwyk of Lindsay Thurber is also listed as an outside hitter.
Jones was expected to be a solid contender for a starting left side role last year, but a hand injury sidelined him for most of the first half.
The Kings have 13 players on their roster, but Schulha wouldn’t mind finding at least one more.
“If we don’t get a lot of injuries we should be fine, but we may have to find one more player at Christmas,” he said.
The Kings open play Sept. 28-30 in Cranbrook against the College of the Rockies, Thompson Rivers University and the U of C. Their Challenge Cup tournament runs Oct. 5-6.
They open league play, Oct. 26 at Grant MacEwan, who they host Oct. 27.