Rode

Lehman adds experience to Red Deer Polytechnic Kings

There was a time while at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School when Reece Lehman visioned himself playing for the Red Deer Polytechnic Kings volleyball team.

It took the Red Deer native longer than anticipated, but he’s finally made it.

Reece came out of high school in 2017 and joined the University of Calgary Dinos for three seasons before deciding to return home.

“I grew up watching the Kings and wanted to play here,” he said. “I did enjoy my time in Calgary but I wanted a change and this was a perfect opportunity for me to play in Red Deer and play in front of my family.”

Lehman didn’t start while with the Dinos, but his time with the USport program wasn’t wasted.

“I wasn’t a starter as we had a good group of older guys, but I learned a lot behind them. I learned a lot of things I can bring to this team as now I’m one of the older guys … I can share my knowledge.”

Reece has slipped in on the right side, playing opposite fifth-year veteran Patrik Toze.

“Pat has a lot of experience and I enjoy playing out there with him,” said the six-foot-three, 22-year-old. “In face we have a good mix of veterans and good athletic young guys.”

The Kings have seven veterans on their roster with six of their starters, including libero JJ Graham, with experience.

“That experience means so much,” added Lehman. “I look back when I was coming out of high school and what a big change it was. Now coming here the transition is a lot easier. I didn’t play as much there as I would have liked but I still practised hard and battled every day to get on the floor.”

Reece played mainly left side with the Dinos, although he has experience on the right side as well.

“That’s a benefit,” said Kings head coach Aaron Schulha. Mainly he’ll play left side with Pat, which gives us a potent combination.”

Reece gives the Kings another offensive threat, but he stresses he wants to be an all-around player.

“Defensively and offensively I want to be a presence,” he said, “I don’t want to be a one-dimensional player. I work on my serving, passing and my attack.”

Despite his experience, stepping into a new team does take a bit of adjustment, especially on defence.

“It just have to work together to know each other’s tendencies … to feel comfortable with one another and know and trust what each other is doing,” Reece said.

“There were times when Reece was in the back row with Maddux (setter Greves) where he’d hesitate expecting Maddux to get the ball but that’s just something they’ll work out,” said Schulha.

Reece, who comes out of a volleyball family, got into the sport in middle school.

“I really started to pick it up when I was in U15 with the club program,” he said.

He also came out of one of the premier high school programs in the province, working with LTCHS head coach Terence McMullen.

“I was really fortunate to play at Thurber and play for Terence. I learned a lot.”

Lehman attended RDP at the start of last season, but once the ACAC shut down he returned to the U of C for the winter semester to work on his kinesiology degree.

As a result he has one year left before graduation.

“We were hoping he’d be here for two years, but he’s bright academically and it appears he’ll be here for only one,” said Schulha.

“I’ll be finished my degree this year then we’ll see what happens,” he said. ‘I do want to work on my Masters Degree so I have to figure out where I’m going and what happens.”

Reece is helping with this year’s edition of the LTCHS Raiders and indicates he’d like to stay involved with the sport once he finishes his degrees.

As of now he’s just glad to be back on the court.

“At the start of last year you thought it was good to get a little break, but as it wore on you were itching to get back. It think it made us all appreciate it more … appreciate the little things and getting to play in front of friends and family. Things you take for granted.”

The RDP squads open their regular season Friday at Lethbridge with the teams returning to the Gary W Harris Canada Games Centre Sunday, with the men at 3 p.m., followed by the women.

“It will be a test,” said Schulha. “They have a mix of experience and youth, much like us.”

What the Kings do have is two of the top middles in the ACAC in six-foot-eight Dillon Gauci and six-foot-five Cody Boulding.

“With the experience and athleticism in the middle there’s no reason we can’t own the middle of the court,” said Schulha. “I believe we have the best tandem in the league and possibly the country.”

They also have one of the premier setters in Greves, who played with Trinity Western University and SAIT.

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

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