Spending two years with Trinity Western University Spartans, one of the premier men’s volleyball programs in U Sport, was something Colby Nemeth will never regret.
But after sitting behind some of the top talent in the country and seeing little playing time, the 20-year-old Lindsay Thurber grad felt it was time to return home and join the RDP Kings.
“The first year was the Covid year so we didn’t play and the second I just didn’t get a lot of playing time,” said the six-foot-five left-side hitter. “There were a lot of talented players ahead of me and so I didn’t expect to get much court time. It was a tough decision to leave but I decided to come here and play with a great program.
“It’s certainly nice to be home and nice to play with this group of guys … I played with a lot of them in club.”
Despite not getting much court time at TWU, Colby brings a good deal of experience with him, having played at the World U21 Beach Volleyball championships last December and a number of provincial and national beach and indoor championships with Team Alberta since he was 14.
Colby and partner Josh Gagnon, who is also a LTCHS grad and plays with the University of Fraser Valley, competed at the U21 Worlds in Phuket, Thailand, finishing 25th.
The Red Deer duo were named to the team after applying online.
“There was an online tryout and because of Covid it took about a year before we heard me made the team and everything came up so quick.
“Josh and I played together in Red Deer for several years, both indoor and beach, but because we were both in season with our university teams we never had a chance to practice before going so we didn’t have much success … not what we were hoping for for sure,” Nemeth explained. “But it was super fun and a great experience to compare ourselves against some of the best players in the world.”
Colby also competed at the Canadian National Beach Champions and the Canada Summer Games last year with Jacob van Geel, who attends Mount Royal University in Calgary, placing fifth.
“We were at Next Gen camp for Team Canada and were put together for the championships. It was a good run.”
Nemeth has played indoor volleyball since a young age and got into beach around “14 or 15”.
“I started playing for fun and something to do in the summer and it transitioned to where I’m more of a beach player,” he said. “But I do like both.
“What I do like more about beach is that you’re playing in nice places with warm weather all the time,” he said with a laugh.
Playing beach definitely helps his indoor game.
“Personally, it’s helped me a lot,” he said. “In beach, you have to be good in every skill … it helps round out your skills and I find it helps me read the court.”
Kings head coach Aaron Schulha can see that.
“He’s a mentally strong kid after playing at Trinity and beach at a high level. One thing is you can’t hide on the beach, you need well-rounded skills and have to execute at a high level.”
Nemeth fit in nicely with the Kings, stepping into the left-side spot vacated by Reece Lehman, who moved on to further his academics.
“I recruited Colby heavily after high school as it’s nice to keep the good local guys around,” said Schulha. “But he had a good opportunity to go to a high-level U Sport program and you can’t fault him for that. Fortunately, he found his way back to us which is a bonus.
“It’s a different program, different coaching styles and different setters and teammates, so there’s a learning curve he will adjust to.
“But he has the athleticism and physicality and will continue to get better as he has more reps in our gym.”
Colby started in all four matches this season as the Kings got off to a up and down start, sitting at 3-1 heading into Friday’s home opener against the Augustana Vikings.
Colby is tied with right-side star Brett Lower with 47 kills and five stuff blocks each. He also leads the team with 14 aces.
Colby indicated he was 14 when he first realized he had the potential to play volleyball at a high level.
“I attended the Team Alberta U16 tryouts and made the team as a red shirt and I felt then I could go on,” he said, adding his time with coach Terence McMullen at LTCHS was a benefit.
“He was excellent for us all and we really connected.”
Colby has our years of eligibility remaining, including this year, but is in his third year working on his Business degree.
“I’ll be here at least a couple more years,” he said.
After graduating he has a number of options in mind.
”I go back and forth between beach and indoor,” he said. “I’m not committed to either. I’d like to see how far I can go and playing pro would be a dream come true.”
But first, he’s concentrating on making the Kings into a championship team.
“We’ve had some adversity early but everyone is working to get better and we have the talent for sure,” he said.
One of the biggest negatives early on was the loss of six-foot-eight middle Dillon Gauci, who led the team in blocks last season.
Dillon tore his right knee ligament and needs surgery.
“It’s bad news and I really feel for the kid,” said Schulha. “I know he’ll do everything he can to be back next year and all we can do now is support him.
“It leaves a big hole and if we had Dillon and when (six-foot-eight LTCHS grad) Spencer (Purdie) comes in after Christmas we would have had a scary lineup.”
Purdie played last season with the University of Saskatchewan and along with outside hitter Noah Carlson of Sylvan Lake, isn’t eligible until the second semester. As is second-year Evan Ockerman and rookie Jax Waslowich of Hunting Hills have been starting in the middle.
As well libero JJ Graham missed last weekend’s twin bill sweep over Medicine Hat with a concussion and setter Maddux Greves has been battling a back injury.
“We’ve been battling through some adversity, but in the long run it’ll make us stronger,” said Schulha. “
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at email@example.com