Kings 3 Trojans 1
The RDC Kings had only one thought heading into the final two matches of the Alberta Colleges Volleyball League regular season — beat the SAIT Trojans twice and go into the playoffs with the No. 1 ranking.
They took a step in that direction at RDC Wednesday with an entertaining 25-19, 25-21, 20-25, 25-22 victory over the Trojans on an evening when the RDC squads honoured their graduating players.
Meanwhile the Queens, 8-1, wrapped up top spot in the Provincial Pool with a 32-30, 25-10, 25-19 victory over the Trojans, 4-5.
The Kings, who are ranked No. 2 in Canada, ran their Provincial Pool record to 8-1 while the third-place Trojans dropped to 5-4. Mount Royal, who holds the edge on the Kings if they should tie, sits second at 6-2.
“It’s not the end of the world if we finish second, but we want to win Saturday (at SAIT) and go into the playoffs on a roll,” said Kings head coach Aaron Schulha. “We’re trying to be at our best at this time of the year. We feel if we’re at our best we can beat anyone.”
Kings veteran power hitter Chris Wowchuk agreed with his coach.
“We’ve had a few demons at SAIT and we want to get over those and get a good feeling about playing in that gym (before the playoffs),” he said. “So really the game Saturday is like a playoff game for us.”
Wowchuk is one of four players who won’t be returning next season, which made Wednesday’s match a bit emotional.
“We’re all grown men so we don’t cry,” he said with a laugh. “But it was emotional for all of us. We still have some volleyball left this season, but the final match at home makes me look at the friends I have on the team and that after this year we’ll be heading your separate ways.”
Right side Mitch Irvine and middle blockers Jeremy Stubler and Darren Dornstauder are also moving on.
The Kings controlled play the first two sets before the Trojans started to find some momentum.
“We played well early, but SAIT kept pushing us, as we knew they’d do and we let down a bit in that third set,” said Wowchuk. “But we also knew what was at stake and did what was needed in the fourth set.”
“The first two sets were smooth and we should have taken a positive attitude into that third set, but we got a little complacent,” said Schulha. “But we should have known they weren’t going to go away.”
Irvine finished with 15 kills, three aces and three blocks while player of the match Taylor Hunt had 14 kills, three aces and two blocks. Wowchuk had 12 kills and five digs and one ace while Stubler finished with six blocks, two kills and an ace. Ken Rauwerda had 16 kills and two blocks for the Trojans and Red Deer native Dustin Fox added four aces, five kills and four blocks.
The Kings finished with 14 blocks and SAIT 10.
“We’ve been working a lot on our blocking and it’s something that’s improved a lot,” added Schulha.
Queens 3 Trojans 0
The Queens have five players, who leave after this season — setter Quinn Schulzke, right side Jessica Clutton, power hitters Katie Graves and Jill Folkard and versatile Lisa Marciak — making for an emotional evening and a slow start for the RDC squad.
“It’s emotional for sure, but it’s a game of emotion and you have to learn to play with that emotion,” said Queens head coach Talbot Walton. “Plus everyone wanted the team to play well in their last match at home, so that changes the focus a bit.”
The Queens also have a lot of volleyball ahead of them and the five graduating players will add even more memories before they leave.
“That’s a good group of five, who have done a lot for this program in the last three years,” said Walton, who wanted to wrap up first place at home.
“The main thing was to play well in our last match at home. It was a good win and got it out of the way.”
The Trojans couldn’t handle middle blocker Danielle Newton, who finished with 14 kills and three stuff blocks.
“We were able to isolate her, in fact Quinn made a lot of good decisions and was getting good match ups.”
Graves finished with 11 kills and 13 digs while Clutton had eight kills and 11 digs, Folkard six kills and libero Tarah Truant 20 digs.
Daly Donaghy had 11 kills for SAIT.