Volleyball Kings face tougher road to the championship

For years the RDC Kings were ranked No. 1 heading into the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association men’s volleyball championships.

For years the RDC Kings were ranked No. 1 heading into the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association men’s volleyball championships.

This year the 10-time national champions, go into the championships in Abbotsford, B.C., ranked fifth, which means a tougher opening draw against fourth-seeded Griffons Outaouais of Gatineau, Que..

“That’s OK,” said Kings head coach Aaron Schulha. “I think it’s a good matchup for us. We played Limoilou in San Diego and they were the top-ranked team in Quebec and we beat them. They were a scrappy team that looked after their defensive end, and from what I’ve seen the Griffons are the same.”

With a victory the Kings would likely face No. 1 ranked Humber Hawks of Etobicoke, Ont., in the semifinals. The Hawks have one of the premier players in the country in Terrel Bramwell, who has spent some time with the national team.

“Bramwell is a stud and they have a six-foot-nine middle back from last year, so they’ll be tough. If we face them we’ll have to try to contain Bramwell a bit,” added Schulha.

The Kings, who go in as a wild card back of ACAC champion Mount Royal, left early Tuesday for Abbotsford and will get two days of practice in before meeting the Griffons at 4 p.m. (MST) Thursday.

The Kings are healthy, something they weren’t when they finished fifth at the nationals in Sherbrooke, Que.

“We’re in a lot better shape, now it’s a matter of focusing and playing our best,” said Schulha. “We’ve had some good practices this week, but then we were playing well at the provincials, before the guys blind sided me with a flat effort against Mount Royal. But I’m sure they’re motivated.”

Humber opened the tournament against the St. Thomas University of Fredericton, N.B., while B.C. champion Douglas College of New Westminster takes on Sherbrooke and Mount Royal meets the host Columbia Bible College.

• Volleyball Kings middle Sean Tuff and cross-country runner Jesslyn Begin received the BMO Bank of Montreal student athlete leadership awards at the ninth annual Kings and Queens scholarship breakfast at the Sheraton Tuesday.

Begin has been a member of the RDC cross-country team for the last two years, finishing fourth and fifth respectively in the ACAC finals. She also spent a considerable amount of time working with Special Olympic athletes in Red Deer and Rocky Mountain House. She trained with, and coached, Special Olympian Thomasina Payne, who won the 1,500m and 3,000m events in Athens, Greece last summer.

Begin was a CCAA academic All-Canadian last year and has a 3.87 grade-point-average this year that will earn her a berth on the team again.

Tuff is a three-year member of the Kings and one of their leaders. He is an active member of the Student Athlete Council and worked with “Family Fun Day” at Oriole Park. He participated in “Movember” and is participating in the “Kings Hair Growth for Cancer”. He also is a volunteer coach with the Central Alberta Kings U18 volleyball team and was an assistant coach at Central Middle School. He also has over a 3.0 ppa.

• The basketball Kings, who lost to MRU in the ACAC finals, go into the national championships, March 15-17 in Truro, N.S., ranked eighth, facing the top-seeded University of Northern B.C. in their opening game.

Mount Royal is ranked No. 2.

• The ACAC will hold their indoor track championships this weekend in Edmonton.

• Basketball Kings point guard Lloyd Strickland and hockey Queens centre Rachael Hoppins were named the Boston Pizza RDC athletes of the week.

Strickland was instrumental in the Kings 93-77 win over Grant MacEwan in the semifinals that gave the Kings a berth in the nationals. He had 33 points and six assists.

Hoppins was outstanding in the Queens semifinal loss to MRU, with two goals and an assist in the three games.