The Fanshawe Falcons capped the perfect season in style.
Undefeated in 24 matches through the regular season and playoffs, they took down the host RDC Kings at a hostile Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre and won the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Volleyball National Championship.
“It’s just a testament to the coaches. They keep us confident and comfortable and knowing what we need to do and if we do the right things, we will be rewarded with a national championship, like this,” said Falcons setter Sebastian Lethbridge, who won the Leadership Award and was MVP of the tournament.
In the first two sets, it was all Falcons, as they rolled to 25-12 and 25-13 wins. RDC pushed back with a massive 25-22 win in the third set but the Falcons managed to close the match out with a 25-23 win in the fourth set.
The Falcons defence was simply too much for the Kings to handle Saturday. They dug what seemed like every ball RDC hit at them and used their service game to bury the Kings whenever the home side found momentum.
“They played tremendous volleyball right from the jump. They seemed much more loose and we seemed a little bit like a deer in the headlights those first couple sets,” Kings head coach Aaron Schulha said of the Falcons.
“You get down pretty heavy against a team like that, not close 2-0. It’s hard to claw your way back… the biggest difference was their best players were their best players and quite simply, ours were not.”
Fanshawe finished the match with seven aces and the Kings made 19 service errors compared to only two aces. The home side also landed in a tough spot with 36 attack errors and only 43 total kills.
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Kings fifth-year hitter Regan Fathers ended his RDC career with 16 kills in the final but had five service errors in the loss.
Lethbridge, who had 27 assists and eight digs in the final added that after the Kings knocked the Falcons out in the quarterfinals at nationals two years ago, it was nice to get revenge in hostile territory.
“It was a barn-burner. That one sank pretty deep. Knowing I would have the opportunity to make them know how it feels, that was a big part of it,” he said.
“Knowing (Saturday), if we just stay calm and stay patient, our game will take care of the rest of it. Just have to let the ball do the work.”
Zach Albert led the way with 11 kills for the Falcons. Both liberos were player of the match for their respective teams, as Isaiah Stime earned the honour for the Kings with six digs and David Gundrum picked it up with nine digs for Fanshawe.
In the bronze medal match, even a monster performance from fifth-year right side Justin Delorme wasn’t enough for the Keyano College Huskies.
The Winnipeg, Man. product had 30 kills in the CCAA Nationals bronze medal match, but it was the VIU Mariners who edged out a thrilling five-set victory (25-20, 25-20, 22-25, 28-30, 16-14).
“It’s awesome. It’s been 12 years since VIU has had a banner go up from nationals. It was a big one,” said Mariners head coach Abe Avender.
VIU won the first two sets and looked in control until the Huskies woke up in the third. They had two five-point leads in the set and were up 24-18 before a mini-run from the Mariners pushed the Huskies to the brink. Delorme closed out the set with his 14th kill of the night.
Delorme rallied the Huskies back into the fourth set trailing 16-12 and pushed all the way to a 30-28 set victory. He had eight kills alone in the set.
Despite falling behind 7-1 in the fifth and deciding set, the Mariners refused to fold it up. They tied the game at 13 and after an error from Huskies hitter Liam Matheson, Keal Prince crushed a spin serve to win the match.
“We just talked about it’s been a long season and every lift of a weight and every practice, it’s just every ball, go as hard as you can. Every one is worth one point and we got a couple of cool digs and turned them around,” Avender added.
First Team CCAA All-Stars included Justin Delorme, Keal Prince, Regan Fathers, Mark DeWit, David Gundrum and Zach Albert. Second Team All-Stars were, Alexis Tournier, Nicolas Fortin, Kelly Woods, Braydon Brouwer, Adam Turlejski and James Jackson.