By DANNY RODE
Special to the Advocate
Kings 3 Huskies 0
The RDC Kings coaching staff put in several long hours late Thursday night and early Friday morning putting together a strategy for when they faced the Keyano Huskies in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference men’s volleyball championships.
What they put together proved to be successful as the Kings downed the Huskies 25-22, 25-20, 25-23 in a thrilling, hard-fought semifinal contest before an overflow crowd at RDC Friday.
Despite the three-set victory it was anything but easy.
“We knew they would come out strong as they lost only two games all year,” said Kings veteran power hitter Matt Lofgren. “We didn’t get a chance to see them this season, so everything was based off video and the coaches did a great job of putting together a game strategy and it worked.”
Kings head coach Aaron Schulha knew they had to play at the top of their game to come out on top of the third-ranked team in the country.
“They’re a solid team … we knew that,” he said. “Their (two) Polish guys are very athletic, they have two big, strong middles and are well coached. We knew it would be tough but this was our most complete match of the season and it came at the right time.”
All three sets were tight until the Kings were able to pull away over the final five points. Both teams were strong at the net — finishing with six stuff blocks each — and had 37 kills apiece. In the end the Kings served a bit tougher — six aces to one — and made only 15 hitting errors to 23 for the Huskies.
The Kings also were solid on defence, including serve receive.
“Our defence was solid,” said Schulha. “That’s led by Michael (libero Sumner). But it all starts with our serving and a solid block.”
Middles Adam Turlejski and Ty Moorman had their hands full with the Keyano middles, but both made key blocks when it was needed.
“Our blocking was smooth,” said Schulha. “They run a bit of a higher offence than teams we see in the South (Division), so it allowed our middles to close and have success.”
The Keyano middles of Justin Delorme and Mohammed Abdelrehim both had six kills while Moorman had six and Turlejski five. Both RDC middles had two blocks each while the Keyano middles finished with one between them.
The fact the Kings faced a bigger NAIT team in the quarter-finals may have helped them.
“NAIT is a good team, much like Keyano and playing them set the tone for what we needed to do today,” said Lofgren.
Both Lofgren and Schulha couldn’t say enough about the large and vocal crowd.
“A tremendous crowd,” said Schulha. “The Keyano fans were loud too … it was a tremendous atmosphere.”
“Hosting this with it being my fifth year is great,” said Lofgren. “I couldn’t ask for more. The energy was uplifting.”
The win put the Kings in today’s 3:30 p.m. final against the Medicine Hat Rattlers, who downed the SAIT Trojans 25-16, 25-18, 21-25, 19-25, 15-8. It also ensured the Kings will return to the Nationals.
“It’s great to be able to extend our season, but we still have one more to go,” said Schulha. “I think it’s now seven years in a row we competed at the Nationals, but we still want to win this at home.”
Regan Fathers had another outstanding match with 16 kills, four aces, three digs and a block. Tristan Dexter had five kills, two aces and five blocks and Lofgren three kills and six digs and was brilliant on defence. Jakub Zdybek had 13 kills for the Huskies.
On the consolation side, Grande Prairie downed The Kings University 3-1 and Briercrest dumped NAIT 3-0.
Wolves 3 Queens 1
LLOYDMINSTER — The RDC Queens started slow and never found their rhythm as they dropped an 8-25, 25-17, 20-25, 21-25 decision to the Grande Prairie Wolves in women’s semifinal action at Lakeland College.
McKenna Barthel finished with seven kills, five digs, two aces and two blocks while Miranda Dawe managed eight kills and five digs. Megan Schmidt had six kills, three digs and a block, Lauren Marshall 13 digs, Ashley Fehr three kills, 28 assists, four digs and three blocks, Hanna Delemont four kills, two aces and a block and Katrina Dawe four kills, five digs and a block.
The Queens face Ambrose in the bronze medal game. Ambrose lost 19-25, 17-25, 20-25 to the host Rustlers.