Jaiden Ferguson knew when she committed to the RDC Queens volleyball program this season she would likely be coming in off the bench.
Even though she was coming from one of the premier high school programs in the province — the Lindsay Thurber Raiders — and a strong Queens club program she was behind a trio of veterans on the left side. Erin Neufeldt and Jade Van Dyke were both in their fourth year and Tess Pearman was transferring in from MacEwan University.
But the five-foot-11 Ferguson had the perfect attitude. She as willing to sit, watch and learn.
“I was never really frustrated as I knew coming in there was a lot of competition on the left side,” said the 18-year-old native of Red Deer. “I was happy for any opportunity I got this year … I just wanted to help the team any way I could. We are all super close and willing to help each other.”
Jaiden’s biggest contribution came in the bronze medal semifinal at the national championship in Quebec,
Jaiden came in and turned in a brilliant 11 kill performance as the Queens upset ACAC champion Briercrest Bible College Clippers 3-2 on their way to winning the bronze medal.
She finished with a spectacular .474 kill percentage, added an ace and three digs in three sets and was named the Queens player of the match.
“I was thankful for the opportunity,” she added. “I was very nervous but it was a lot of fun.”
Head coach Talbot Walton didn’t hesitate to insert Jaiden and Jade into the starting lineup when the Queens were struggling.
“We used Jaiden and Jade in a similar situation earlier against Ambrose and they both had good matches so against Briercrest we needed a chance as the athletes on the floor were having a tough time. We knew the capabilities of Ferguson and knew she could play at a high level and make an impact and on that day she certainly did.
“There’s a comfort level as a coach that in a big game you know the capabilities of the player.”
Walton knew he had a strong addition to the team early on.
“Jaiden was one of those local athletes we felt good about and felt she fit in with our program,” he said. ‘We were happy she wanted to be part of our program. She’s a physical athlete, who hits the ball hard. She knew her strengths and worked to get better.”
“I was also strong at the net, but I still need to work on my back row play,” she said. “Plus this summer I’m not going to play any beach but hit the weight room to get stronger.”
Jaiden got into volleyball in middle school as a way to be with her friends.
“I became more competitive once I got into high school,” she pointed out.
She started as a middle and switched to the left side in high school and was a major contributor as the Raiders won silver in 2016 and gold in both 2017 and ’18.
Jaiden was quick to point out that she felt comfortable late in the season, thanks to her development in high school and club and over the ACAC regular season.
“Playing high school and club definitely helped the transition,” he said. “It was important to be with programs that were successful and with coaches who not only wanted to win but wanted to get the best out of you.”
Jaiden did step into a RDC program filled with players she played with in high school or club.
She played with Emma Holmes, Kira Weddell and Edyn Aasman with the Raiders and knew Ali Greenshields and Sydney Rix from the club program and Kaylee Domoney is a LTCHS grad.
“Knowing them helped for sure, but coming in it was still a bit strange being with a number of new girls, but it was a change I liked it.”
Jaiden, in fact all but two members of the Queens, will likely be returning next season.
“We’re all looking forward to next year, we’ll have a very good team,” said Ferguson, who is in Business Administration.
“We knew from the start of the season we’d have a high returning rate and we tried to push hard as we could to give them as much information as we could in a short period of time, so they could start absorbing it.
“It was important for us to compete at the nationals and end up with a medal when it comes to our confidence. We proved we can play with the best teams so as a coach it makes it easier to sell what we want.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org