Coming out of Lindsay Thurber Ben Holmes was considered one of the top recruits to join the RDC Kings.
But stepping onto the premier men’s volleyball team in the country meant sitting and watching for the majority of the season.
Holmes played in only six games his rookie year, but he watched and learned, something that helped him develop into a solid starter.
“It was a big step from high school,” said Holmes. “Once you start practising you realize the guys are bigger and hit harder but the biggest difference is the energy and intensity they play at. It was beyond anything I felt before and it took time to get used to.”
Holmes also wasn’t coming into an ordinary program.
“Because of the expectations here there was even more pressure which leads to the passion and intensity you see in practice and games. You’re pulled into that. The coaches and the history fuel that passion and intensity and makes it more fun for sure.”
The Kings defeated the Limoilou Titans in the national final in B.C. in Holmes rookie season, then lost the majority of their starting lineup, which allowed Holmes a chance to step into a starting role on the left side. He played in 20 matches, averaging 2.02 kills per set.
Even then he was still learning.
“But I gained a lot of confidence,” he said. “I had a bigger role in my second year and I developed a lot more confidence. Because of that I felt I was able to lead and had trust in myself and my teammates had trust in me.”
As well the six-foot-three Red Deer native was named captain.
“It’s a good role and a lot of fun, especially this year where we have several older guys and great leaders.
“It spreads the leadership out and takes the burden off some guys as everyone comes together and provides that leadership.”
Holmes is one of the team’s most consistent defenders and is someone head coach Aaron Schulha feels confident in.
“He’s a stable passer and has been a defensive leader for us all year,” said Schulha. “He’s also able to handle a tonne of volume on offence or be satisfied with 10 balls. He’s a captain and does everything we ask of him and once he’s consistent with his serve the sky is the limit.”
Consistency on the service line is one thing Holmes continues to work on.
“My serving has been up and down,” he said. “It’s coming, but I have to continue to work on it all the time.
“It’s different than high school where you just have to get the ball over the net. Here there’s more pressure on you as you need to serve tougher and not give an easy ball to handle.”
Serving, or missed serves, is one area the Kings need to improve on as a team.
“It’s tough on us when we miss back-to-back serves, it affects the whole team, but it’s something we’re continuing to work on.”
Offensively, led by 2017 national finals MVP Regan Fathers, and Holmes the Kings can play with any team in the country. The same can be said about their defence.
“We work hard on our defence, but it starts with a good serve and a solid block,” said Holmes. “Defence works around that and when you have the intensity and good teammates, like we do, everything comes together.”
The Kings hosted the first RDC Christmas tournament last weekend, bringing together five of the top teams in the country, including defending CCAA champion Limoilou and top-ranked Fanshawe College out of Ontario.
The Kings posted a 3-1 record, losing only to Fanshawe, who also finished at 3-1.
“It was a great opportunity for us to see where we sit and what we need to work on before we host the Nationals,” said Holmes. “It’s hard to know what the other teams are like without seeing them. Now we know where we have to be in March.”
Holmes is excited to host the CCAA finals.
“It’ll be a crazy feeling to have it in your home city with the support I know we’ll get.”
Holmes is taking psychology and will be with the Kings for all five year.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org