MOOSE JAW, Sask. — No matter how much experience you have, or how many times you’ve competed at the national level there’s always nerves.
The RDC Kings are no different.
“You could see the nerves, the first four spin servers all blew it into the net, but everyone settled down and started playing the way they can,” said Kings head coach Aaron Schulha following a 25-17, 25-17, 25-14 victory over the St-Jerome Cheminots in their opening match of the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association men’s volleyball championships Thursday.
“The first few points there were jitters for sure,” said Kings player of the match Braden O’Toole. “Once we cleaned it up we were pretty good and should be better now that the first game is out of the way.”
But while the Kings were a bit tight early on so were the Cheminots, who simply didn’t have the depth, nor experience to stay with the top-ranked Kings.
“We’re a young team and not used to this big of a championship,” said Cheminots head coach Jonathan Brunet through an interpreter.
“We were really impressed (with Red Deer) but we didn’t play as well as we would have if we were back in our league. The guys were not at their best, they were nervous.”
The Kings had problems with their serve toss in the spacious athletic centre, but O’Toole didn’t feel that was a problem.
“I like the gym, I think it was just jitters and we were fine after we settled down.”
The Kings were never pushed by the Cheminots and Schulha never called a time out.
“I think they are a solid team . . . their setter (Gabriel Chancy) is on the junior national team, but they didn’t play that well,” said O’Toole. “We had to bring our own energy and it got better as we went along.”
The match wasn’t as tough as the Kings’ victory over Briercrest in the first match of the ACAC playoffs.
“That was tough and because we were pushed it got us going. Hopefully this gets us to where we need to be,” added O’Toole, who finished with 10 kills, six digs and two stuff blocks.
Once the Kings settled down you could see their talent take over, let by setter Sam Brisbane.
“Sam did a good job of mixing up our offence . . . we talk about how good Sam is and he was that again today,” said Schulha. “We also got our middles involved early and it opened up the outside.”
But there were areas Schulha wants to solidify.
“Our first contact can be better and I expect it to be tomorrow . . . better serving and passing.”
The Kings will need to be stronger as they face Columbia Bible College Bearcats of Abbotsford, who downed the Humber Hawks of Toronto 25-20, 25-21, 25-20.
“They looked sharp,” said Schulha.
“Humber wasn’t at their best, but CBC blocked a lot of balls and they won the nationals three years ago and have some guys back from that team so they know how to have success. They have a quality program, but we have to look after ourselves and if we execute on our side we match up with any team here.”
As for the Cheminots they face the Hawks today and still have a shot at a bronze medal.
“We just want to finish in the best position we can,” said Brunet.
Tim Finnigan added 10 kills for the Kings while Chris Jones had six kills, an ace, nine digs and a stuff block. Chris Osborn added six kills and a block with Brisbane adding three kills, 29 assists, an ace and nine digs. Libero Parker Maris had eight digs and middle Justin Lukacs added four kills, a block and five digs.
On the other side, the host Briercrest Bible College Clippers upset the Douglas Royals of New Westminster 25-20, 24-26, 22-25, 25-20, 15-10 and will face the Mohawk Mountaineers of Hamilton, The Mountaineers downed the St. Thomas Tommies of Fredericton, N.B., 20-25, 27-25, 14-25, 25-16, 15-13.
The final goes Saturday at 7 p.m. (MST).