RDC Kings volleyball head coach Aaron Schulha knows depth plays a major role in his success.
Two years ago when star outside hitter Tim Finnigan went down at the national finals the Kings didn’t have that depth to carry them into the medals. This past season the Kings had plenty of depth when left side hitter Matt Lofgren went down with an ankle injury. Kashtin De Souza stepped in and played a solid role in the Kings capturing their 12th overall national title.
“We didn’t have the luxury to have that depth when Tim went down,” said Schulha. “We were thin. The same thing in 2013 when we lost Chris Osborn. That sticks with me and I’ve learned to make sure we have the pieces so that when a key guy goes down we have someone who can step in.
“At the end of last year we had 10 guys who could have started for the bulk of teams in the country. Having that depth speaks for guys wanting to be here and be part of the program.”
The Kings will have that depth once again this season with nine returnees, including outstanding setter Luke Brisbane, who was the MVP at both the ACAC and CCAA championships. He was also named the RDC male athlete of the year for the second straight year and is the Advocate’s Red Deer male athlete of the year for 2015.
“Luke’s resume speaks for itself,” said Schulha. “He’s a talent for sure and developing into a leader. He’s not the most vocal of guys but to have him back as one of our captains and leaders is huge. He’s a 4.0 student, works hard in the weight room and leads by example. He’s the type of player guys like to follow.
“He’s a special player and to have him back for a third year speaks for what he thinks of the program and the school. He’s probably the best setter in the country and makes things so much easier for us.”
Fourth-year setter Ryan Beatson and outstanding libero Michael Sumner also return. The Kings lose Tom Lyon in the middle, but Ty Moorman and Adam Turlejski are back along with Ben Hankins and Daimyn Beiletsky, who worked out on the right side last season.
“Losing Tommy is tough, but he’s graduated and with Ty and Adam we’re fine. As well Ben is in his second year and deserves more playing time and Daimyn came in as a middle, has a fast arm and is athletic, which allows him to slide back into the middle.”
Lofgren and Regan Fathers return on the outside where Schulha added three players – Ben Holmes of Lindsay Thurber, Parker Biletsky of Notre Dame and Tristan Dexter, formerly of Bev Facey in Sherwood Park.
Schulha recruited the six-foot-five Dexter last season, but he attended Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. However, his program wasn’t what he wanted and decided to return to Red Deer, where he lived until moving to Sherwood Park in Grade 10.
“I’ve been interested in all three of them since Grade 10,” said Schulha. “Technically they’re all local guys. Tristan moved but grew up here. So that’s what we’re looking for.”
Schulha has 12 players on his list and would love to add three or four more.
“We have a firm 12 guys, so we’re happy with what we have but it would be nice to put a few final pieces in place. We have a line on a couple of other guys and a couple of alumni have shown interest in returning.