Kings impress in alumni game
For years the RDC Kings opened their Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference men’s volleyball exhibition season against the Canadian National Masters team.
But it got to a point where it didn’t do what the Kings wanted.
So to add a bit more of a draw and excitement to the evening the Kings made it a strictly alumni affair.
“The masters kind of got watered down for whatever the reason,” said alumni setter and RDC assistant coach Blake Henwood.
“I think the alumni take it a little more seriously. We don’t expect to beat up on them, but we can push them a bit and show them the older guys can still play.
“It’s a fun match and one we all look forward to. Plus by playing against them I get a chance to see what they’re doing and can take some things back to practice and work on them.”
The majority of the alumni also played university ball and it showed on the court.
“We still have a lot of parts the younger guys are missing, which they need to figure out along the way,” said Henwood.
But then the current edition of the Kings still pulled out a 25-22, 25-22, 25-22, 18-25 victory before over 200 fans at RDC Tuesday.
“I was impressed,” said Henwood. “I didn’t expect some of the guys to be doing what they were doing. We’ve been working hard on offence in practice and it’s paying off.”
The Kings did show some rust, which was natural considering it was their first real match of the season.
“A little bit, but we did a good job leading up to this on focusing on the process and not getting carried away with playing the alumni,” said Kings head coach Aaron Schulha. “To be rusty was expected, but the communication errors are something that shouldn’t happen, even at this time of the year. But execution errors will happen.”
Schulha was able to use his complete 13-man roster, mixing and matching lineups during all four sets.
“We’re pretty deep, as deep as last year and it’s nice to have Braden (O’Toole) and (Chris) Osborn who can play all the positions across the front.”
He also has two setters — veteran Travis Czainski and rookie Sam Brisbane from Australia — who didn’t look out of place.
“Travis may have been a little more crisp, but they do have two different styles. Travis has more energy and speed while Sam is calmer and is really just getting comfortable with the speed of the game. He’s a bit bigger and more of a presence at the net. It’s nice to have two different looks. We can use either one depending on the team we’re playing.”
Henwood, who is the Kings setting coach, also likes what he sees.
“I like the battle between the two. They have different styles and they’re receptive to what is going on and push each other. I haven’t seen this close a battle for a while and it’s great to see.”
One of the other first-year players, who stood out was six-foot-six middle Jonah Gilham of Medicine Hat. He finished with three stuff blocks and three kills in limited action.
“He’s tall and long and in terms of middle vs. middle very good,” said Schulha. “He still needs to work on his closing speed and on his attack, but he’s the most ready first-year middle we’ve had in several years and that’s exciting.”
Former SAIT Trojan Tim Finnigan led the Kings with eight kills, four aces and seven digs while Osborn had seven kills and two blocks, Jordan Gardiner five blocks and three kills, O’Toole six kills and libero Pat McIntyre 15 digs.
Seth Schalk had 13 kills and 10 digs for the alumni with Adam Scillery adding nine kills, a block and eight digs and Tim Gourlay eight kills and an ace.
The Kings will compete in the Rumble in the Rockies in Cranbrook this weekend. They face the Thompson River University and the U of Calgary once each and the College of the Rockies from Cranbrook twice.