Kings 3 Rattlers 2
It came as no surprise to see the RDC Kings and Medicine Hat Rattlers meeting in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference men’s volleyball final.
It also came as no surprise that the match went the distance.
The two split four meetings during the regular season and tied for top spot in the South Division, although MHC was awarded first because of a better sets win-loss record between the two.
However, on Saturday afternoon the Kings won the match that really counted, recording a thrilling 20-25, 25-17, 25-20, 17-25, 15-9 victory over the Rattlers before an extremely loud capacity crowd at RDC. There were even a number of fans who had to watch the game in the Far Side Lounge at the College.
The match had a little bit of everything, on both sides of the net, but in the end the Kings showed why they’re consistently one of the premier teams in the country and the defending ACAC and CCAA champions.
The fourth set was one of their poorest in the three days, but instead of hanging their heads the Kings battled hard to end the set and carried that momentum into the fifth set.
“We have a resilient group,” said Kings head coach Aaron Schulha. “We knew that fourth set wasn’t our best volleyball, but we were able to regain some momentum and rhythm toward the end of it and and carry it into the fifth.”
Schulha made a couple of changes midway through the fourth set with the score 20-10 for MHC. He inserted Ryan Beatson for Luke Brisbane and Brian Grenier for Tristan Dexter.
“Luke was getting a little worked up and Ryan brings a different energy and he helped us regroup, as did Brian.”
In fact Beatson did all the talking between the fourth and fifth sets.
“I’ve been preaching all year we need those things from the players rather than the coaches and when we heard him talking we said let him have it,” said Schulha. “We set the lineup and spread the word that this is why we want these opportunities.”
Regan Fathers was named the tournament MVP and he was more than glad to face the Rattlers in the final.
“We said before that fifth set that if we wanted to play any team in any competition we wanted to face Med Hat in the fifth set of the final,” he said.
He also agreed the Kings experience, having won the nationals last season, did them a world of good.
“We played some bad volleyball in that fourth set, but one of our strengths is consistency and being able to refocus and that experience we gained last year added to that.”
In the end the match brought the crowd to their feet.
“The two right teams were in the final,” said Schulha. “The fans got their money’s worth … it was a helluva crowd and exciting to come out on top.”
It will also be the final time the Kings win gold in their old gym. In two years they move into the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.
“It’s so nice to look up there at the banners and there is still some room there,” said Schulha with a smile.
Fathers led the Kings with 26 kills and was named the RDC player of the match for the third straight game.
“Regan was great all weekend,” said Schulha. “He made a few errors, but they were far and few between. He was the player of the match in all three games and well deserved. We relied on him and will continue to do so.”
Fathers, a native of Australia, is expected to join the University of Calgary next season, but isn’t looking that far ahead.
“Every year we go into the season looking to win the provincials and then the nationals. There is no better feeling to win this and go back. It’s three wins down and three to go.
“As for the MVP I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. We were all on. No one had a bad game.”
Ty Moorman added 10 kills for the Kings while Matt Lofgren had six kills and 12 digs, Adam Turlejski five kills, Dexter six kills, nine digs and two blocks, Michael Sumner, who was named the tournament’s top libero, nine digs and all-star Brisbane 45 assists. All-stars Isak Helland-Hansen and Joel Kotyk had 16 and 14 kills respectively for MHC.
Tristan Simmonds of Grande Prairie, Jakub Zdybek of Keyano, Trent Mounter of SAIT were also all-stars.
Keyano downed SAIT 27-25, 25-20, 25-18 in the bronze match. Grande Prairie beat Briercrest 3-2 for fifth place.
The Kings and Medicine Hat will compete in the Nationals, March 9-11 at Fanshawe College in London, Ont.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can also be seen at Danny’s blog at rdcathletics.ca