On a night where last season’s accomplishments were the headlining act, the current edition of the Red Deer College volleyball teams stole the show.
RDC Queens opened the night with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-19, 25-17) win over a rebuilding Medicine Hat College Rattlers team, the Kings followed with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-22) in a show down between the two top ranked teams in the country.
In between the two matches the three Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championship banners —men’s and women’s volleyball and women’s curling — were raised to the rafters in a 30-minute ceremony, in front of a sold out crowd of 450 people.
The Kings (4-1, 13-4), however, managed to keep their focus on an opponent that had only dropped one set in six matches heading into the night.
“That’s by far the best serving team we’ve faced,” said RDC head coach Aaron Schula, singing out in particular their two imports, Isak Helland-Hansen and Fraser Smith. “In the first contact scheme of things we should have an advantage in our gym serving and passing and I think we showed that today.”
Hard-hitting brothers Tim and Anthony Finnigan led the Kings with 11 kills each while Justin Lukas had 13 digs. Meanwhile, first-year setter Luke Brisbane out of Melbourne, Australia, ran an effective offence that kept the Rattlers (6-1, 18-4) off balance all night.
“His learning curve has been extremely steep since he got here,” said Schula. “His high end is extremely, just like his brother (Sam Brisbane) who left us to go play (Canadian Interuniversity Sport volleyball).”
Paul Mennie led MHC with 10 kills while Helland-Hansen had 12 digs and Dylan Neufeld a game-high five blocks.
The biggest point of concern for the Kings, after two tight sets, they finally got out to a big lead in the third set with a chance to put it away at 24-17, but they let the Rattlers creep back in.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re finishing out every game,” said Schula.
“That should be a rude awakening for us to never let off the gas.”
The Queens (4-1, 13-4) backed up their No. 1 ranking in the CCAA standings by cruising past the Rattlers (1-6, 4-20) in three sets in the early match.
Leah Koot led RDC with 11 kills while Marisa Neufeld had seven digs, while other bench players like libero Kelsey Ewashkiw, Kelsey Tymkow and Ashley Fehr also played well in their opportunities.
“I was real impressed with Leah, she was almost at 100 per cent kill efficiency for most of the game, so she did a super job just putting away the ball,” said RDC head coach Talbot Walton. Most importantly for Walton, he was able to get 14 different players into the game, including all of his returning players off of last year’s championship team, and not miss much of a beat. As they go deeper into the season, that experience and depth will prove critical.
“It was one of those situations where it was super unique to have that moment and be part of a championship banner night and also be able to play that night, it was one of my goals coming into the season (to get everyone in) and I was hoping we were ready to,” said Walton. “The distractions were all around us tonight and I think we played well.”
The two teams play each other again today with the women going at 1 p.m. and the men at 3 p.m.