Kings moves played major role in ACAC volleyball title
The RDC Kings rolled through the first half of the Alberta Colleges Men’s Volleyball League season undefeated, but head coach Aaron Schulha knew there was something he needed to do to assure they had even a better shot at a national title.
So at Christmas he switched Chris Osborn from the right side to the middle and inserted Braden O’Toole into the lineup.
The move paid dividends as the six-foot-eight Osborn and the six-foot-five O’Toole played major roles in the Kings capturing the ACAC title.
“It made us more physical overall and it worked well Chris has dominated in the middle,” said O’Toole prior to leaving to the Canadian championships in Welland, Ont., Tuesday afternoon.
Schulha had nothing but praise for Osborn for making the switch.
“Chris totally bought in,” he said. “It says a lot about him in that he was the first one to tell me he was more about winning as a group than having more volume on the right side. He said it allowed us to have our best athletes on the floor at the same time. So far it’s worked out.”
It’s also worked out for O’Toole, a native of Canmore, who came to RDC last season to play basketball. He spent a year at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, B.C., with the volleyball team, but decided to return closer to home.
“I had a friend playing football in Nanaimo and he suggested I contact VIU about volleyball,” explained O’Toole. “I talked with the coaches and they invited me out, but I thought about playing basketball here and with a good kinesiology program I made the move.”
It was during the first half of last season that he decided he was more comfortable playing volleyball.
“I realized the volleyball team was strong and I liked the competitiveness of the sport and I like having fun and for me it was best. So I talked with Schulha and he invited me to work out with the team and said I made it. It’s been great.”
O’Toole was a backup last season and to start this year until Schulha made the switch.
“He’s been great, especially at the conference championships,” said Schulha. “The second half of the season he came a long way, but the way he served and played in general at the championships allowed us to be successful.”
O’Toole believes that can carry over into the nationals, which opens Thursday.
“We played some of the teams before and had success, so if we play our game we’ll be hard to beat,” he said.
The Kings go into the nationals ranked No. 1 and face the eighth-seeded University of Kings College Blue Devils of Halifax in their opener at 11 a.m. (MST).
It’s a game the Kings should win.
“I don’t want to say it will be easy, but it looks as if our first game at the nationals will be easier than our first game at the conference championships,” said Schulha, whose squad needed five sets to beat The Kings University College in the ACAC finals. “It’s a game that should get the nerves out. The semis and final, if we get there, won’t be easy, but that’s to be expected. However, I’ve told the guys that if we play like we did in the final two games at the conference finals we’ll be tough as we played out of our minds.”
O’Toole believes the Kings have something to prove after losing in the semifinals last year.
“It’s nice going back this year and knowing what to expect . . . we’ll also be hungry.”
And besides he likes the feel of wearing gold.
“That provincial championship was the first I’ve ever won. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
As for his future O’Toole indicated he’d like to look at the CIS, although “I’d also like to come back. However, that’s something I’ll look at later. Right now I’m worry about this weekend.”
The Kings go into the nationals as the winningest program in history with 10 Canadian titles, including eight in a row.
“I looked that up and it’s something to be proud of and we’d like nothing better than to bring that title back here,” concluded O’Toole.
The SAIT Trojans go into the championship ranked fourth and meet VIU while Nipissing of North Bay, Ont., meets L’Outaouais of Gatineau, Que., and Capilano of North Vancouver takes on Niagara of Welland.
• The women’s nationals are in Lloydminster at Lakeland College. NAIT goes in ranked fourth and Lakeland sixth.
• The final basketball rankings are out and the Kings are ranked third and will meet VIU in their first round of the nationals in Montreal. Keyano College of Fort McMurray is seventh and meets second ranked Sheridan College of Oakville, Ont.
On the women’s side, Olds College is ranked fifth and meet Algonquin of Ottawa.
• The hockey Queens will look to stay alive in the best-of-five ACAC finals against NAIT when they clash Friday at 7 p.m. at NAIT. If a fourth game is needed it’s Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the Arena with the fifth game, if necessary, Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at NAIT.
• Queens hockey defenceman Natasha Steblin was named the Boston Pizza RDC athlete of the week after two strong performances against NAIT in the league final.
Rob Pierce of the basketball Kings took top honours on the men’s side after helping the Kings win the ACAC championship for the second time in history.
Pierce was player of the game in two of the three games, including the final.
The basketball Kings received the Breathing Room Yoga Studio and Cafe team of the week award.