CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Tim Finnigan was the unquestioned leader of the Red Deer College Kings men’s volleyball team this year.
He fought through a quad injury all season that hampered his play but was still able to produce at a first team all-conference level. But that quad finally wore out at the worst possible time and the reigning Canadian Colleges Athletic Association champs will be playing for a medal of a different colour this year.
The No. 4 seeded Kings fell 3-2 (14-25, 25-22, 30-28, 13-25, 15-13) to the No. 1 seeded Camosun Chargers out of Victoria, B.C., after Finnigan re-injured his quad in the first set.
“We knew that we were playing with fire a little bit and he was going to do everything he could to give himself a chance to be a big part of what we were doing,” said Kings head coach Aaron Schulha. “As soon as he came down and started limping, he gave me a look that ‘you’re better off with me off the floor,’ which is pretty telling for a guy who wants it so bad.”
The Kings still managed to hang in with the Pacific Western Athletic Association champions, running away with the first set before losing two hard-fought sets on poor serving and cruising to a win in the fourth. They even held an 8-6 lead in the fifth and deciding set, but much like in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference final, their opponents chipped away and stole the game.
It was a crushing defeat for the 2014 national champions who had visions of repeating that title. Their opponent in the gold medal game would have been the No. 7 Titans de Limoilou.
Other players stepped up in the absence of Finnigan, who’s stat line in his final game as a King will be an uncharacteristically undistinguished one kill, one ace and one dig. Nic Dubinsky was a machine with a game-high 32 kills and seven digs, Adam Turlejski had seven kills, four digs, four solo blocks, seven block assists and two service aces. CCAA player of the year Luke Brisbane had 54 assists, 11 digs, two aces, five block assists and one kill for the Kings.
“The guys are obviously very heart-broken,” said Schulha. “But to be able to play at that level against a very good team that was very deserving of their No. 1 ranking … without their leader on the floor, I thought a lot of those guys stepped up in ways that haven’t we seen them do this year.”
Cameron Fennema led the Chargers with 23 kills and 10 digs.
The best the Kings can do now is finish with a bronze medal, but that’s a difficult road ahead with a semifinal game at 9 a.m. MST against the Niagara College Knights. The winner will then advance to the third place game at 3 p.m.
“A lot of these guys will never play a tougher match then they do tomorrow, just character-wise,” said Schulha. “I think the character they showed tonight will transfer over to tomorrow.”