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Kings Schulha looking at ways to take the next step


Red Deer Polytechnic Kings volleyball head coach Aaron Schulha isn’t about to sit back and just hope the team takes the next step in their development.

“The last couple of years have been frustrating,” he said. “Since losing in the semifinal at the Nationals (in 2022) we’ve lost similar games the past couple of seasons … just a point here there didn’t go our way.

“It’s crazy as a coach I beat myself up as I felt I had them in a good spot, but unfortunately I can’t make choices for them.”

The last two seasons the Kings were close, losing in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference final to Briercrest in 2023 and then blowing a two-game lead to eventual national champion NAIT in this past season’s semifinal.

“Both years we had relatively good regular season, but should have won a few more matches 3-0 rather than 3-1, or 3-2 and we also lost a couple matches we shouldn’t have.”

Schulha and his coaching staff sat down and talked about ways to make that small improvement so they get those extra points.

“We’re talking about using more sports psychology,” said Schulha. “We have Keith Hansen here and he has the volleyball knowledge obviously and the sports psychology. We’ve used him at times in the past but hope to more often this year. It’ll make us more mentally tough.

“As well in terms of arm swing we hope use a former USport coach who has a company out of Edmonton working with post-secondary programs.

“A couple different things that could make the difference between winning bronze at the provincials to winning gold at the nationals.”

The Kings last won the CCAA title in 2017. They were second in 2019 and third in 2022.

“We have a long history of success, but that’s in the past,” said Schulha. “This group hasn’t won. We have to stop talking about what we’ve done in the past as that’s not getting to where we want to be now.”

The Kings have all the talent to once again be a strong contender in the ACAC, losing just five players.

Setter Tom Wass of Australia has decided to return home, leaving Brett Theise as the veteran setter.

“Brett is on the smaller side, but jumps good and has experience,” said Schulha, who is excited about newcomer Drew Dykstra, of Lacombe, who played with CASHS and the Kings club program.

Dykstra, son of former King Kurtis Dykstra, is a six-foot-five left hander and played with Team Alberta.

“We’re hoping we have Drew for two or three years before he looks at USport,” said Schulha. “Both will get time and it will be a good battle for that playing time.”

The Kings also lost outside hitter Brody Kopec, fifth-year libero JJ Graham, middle Spencer Purdie and backup libero Austin Westermeier-Ly.

“JJ leaves a big hole, but we were fortunate to have Bradley Noskey contact us,” said Schulha. “Bradley played for the University of Calgary. Last year he was expected to be their second libero, but fractured his thumb and missed the season. He still has two years of eligibility remaining. He has his degree at the U of C but wants to add a diploma to that.”

The second libero is Ty Fleming out of Notre Dame, who played on the same club team as Dykstra and newcomer and outside hitter Liam Hartt, of Olds.

“Liam is a little raw in terms of volleyball reps, but is talented, is six-foot-five and is committed to be here long term,” added Schulha, who does have two of the premier outside hitters in the conference returning in right side Noah Carlson and left side Colby Nemeth.

“Noah had a tremendous year and Colby is one of the top left side hitters in the conference,” said Schulha. “He has a great arm and has been working on adding a bit more strength which will make him that much tougher.”

The Kings added a back-row attack by Nemeth last season which added to their diversity, but Schulha was mystified why they went away from that in the playoffs.

“It forces teams to be on their toes and it takes some pressure off Noah.”

As well Zach Neufeld stepped up and played well late last season with Carter Hills, Brett Lower, Nick Possingham and Dante Furlan all returning to the outside.

Purdie was an all-star last season in the middle, but Schulha still has four returnees, including six-foot-seven Dillon Gauci.

“Dillon returned from a knee operation last year and it played with his mind early on and then aggravated it late in the year which affected him in the playoffs,” said Schulha. “But there was no structural damage and he’ll be fine this year.”

As well Owen Langberg is entering his second season and came on strong as the season wore on last year while Evan Ockerman and Rylan Teasdale also return in the middle.

“We lost Spencer but we should be well equipped to handle that,” added Schulha, who indicated you can never predict what can happen each season.

“But if the guys in the room and the coaches do our jobs there’s no reason we shouldn’t be right in the mix. We should be mentally tougher and a veteran group with three fifth-year players and several in their fourth year.

“If we’re not in the mix there’s something wrong.”

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at