Kings start off nationals with win over St. Clair Saints

Luke Brisbane backed up his selection as the best men’s college volleyball player in Canada in his very first opportunity. The Australian setter led the No. 4 Red Deer College Kings to a 3-1 (25-20, 25-22, 20-25, 25-11) win over the No. 5 St. Clair Saints on the opening day of the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association Men’s Volleyball Championship on Thursday.

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Luke Brisbane backed up his selection as the best men’s college volleyball player in Canada in his very first opportunity.

The Australian setter led the No. 4 Red Deer College Kings to a 3-1 (25-20, 25-22, 20-25, 25-11) win over the No. 5 St. Clair Saints on the opening day of the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association Men’s Volleyball Championship on Thursday.

“It’s incredible, I do not remember the last time a first year player was named player of the year,” said RDC head coach Aaron Schulha. “Luke’s a pretty even keel kind of kid, it’s obviously a pretty prestigious honour, but I don’t think it will change how he is He wants to continue to improve and that will give him more motivation to get better.

“Pretty incredible first year for Luke, he’s more motivated for the team prize at the end if we can look after it.”

Brisbane finished the night with 33 assists, eight digs, three blocks and two block assists to go with three kills.

Kings captain Tim Finnigan, who starred on last year’s national championship team as an all-Canadian had a game high 14 kills while Nic Dubinsky had 11 kills and seven digs.

RDC played well through the first two sets, but seemingly lost focus at the beginning of the third set, digging five-point hole early that they were unable to dig out of. However, they played well towards the end of the set to build some momentum that carried into the fourth and then dismantled the Ontario silver medallists.

“The quarter-final is always a tough one, it’s your first match in a facility, you can practice all you want … but it’s a whole different animal when you’re in there with the pressure and a quality team against you,” said Schulha. “To work out some of those first game nerves and to get used to the facility and do all of those things is really important. The execution in the fourth set should really bode well for us moving into tomorrow.”

Key to the win was minimizing the impact of Ontario Colleges Athletic Association player of the year Jason Hernandez who had just 11 kills and six digs.

RDC now prepares to face the Pacific Western Athletic Association champion and No. 1 seed Camosun College Chargers out of Victoria, B.C., after a day of upsets.

The No. 2 University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings lost 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-22) to the No. 7 Titans de Limoilou after the Vikings top player — Luke Ryan — was injured in warm up. The No. 6 St. Thomas Tommies out of the Atlantic Colleges Athletic Association then beat Ontario champion and No. 3 seeded Niagara College Knights 3-1 (20-25, 25-22, 26-24, 25-23).

The Chargers, however, did not continue the trend after being a surprise champion in B.C., they cruised past the No. 8 host Holland Hurricanes 3-0 (25-10, 25-15, 25-22).

“It really is anyone’s tournament and if you don’t look after each match in succession — you can’t start thinking too far ahead — the results won’t be in your favour,” said Schulha.

The semifinal starts at 5 p.m. MST and the winner advances to Saturday’s gold medal game at 5 p.m. The loser will play at 9 a.m. on Saturday in the bronze medal semifinal.

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