By DANNY RODE
Special to the Advocate
With the Wild Rose Classic the first opportunity the RDC Queens have to show their fans what they can expect during the ACAC volleyball season, it’s always been important to play well.
And from all indications during this year’s Classic it should be a good season.
The Queens still have some fine tuning to do, but overall looked ready for the season as they downed The Kings University Eagles of Edmonton 25-17, 16-25, 15-13 in the final Sunday afternoon.
The biggest change from last season is the addition of coach Chris Wandler, who takes over for Talbot Walton, who is out on medical leave.
“I think we have similar systems to last season, with a things different and a few new faces,” said Queens veteran middle blocker Hanna Delemont.
While the Queens have several impressive newcomers, they also have a solid veteran starting roster.
Some of that veteran experience showed in the final after they lost the second set, and trailed 7-3 early in the third.
“You could see the experience and toughness,” said Wandler. “Being the new guy I always want to figure out how mentally tough they are. Will they pack it in, or battle. I was pleasantly surprised from what I’ve seen so far (in the exhibition season).”
What Wandler will work on was the letdown after the first set.
“We got off to a good start in that first set, but what we need to work on is the transition to the second set,” he said. We have to have the mindset that you can’t assume the way we finished the first set will carry over to the second. And that’s just work.
“Today we let the other team sneak in. It’s funny things can change in a heartbeat in this game. We didn’t match their intensity in the second set, but after a timeout in the third we got our stuff in order, and decided it wasn’t going to happen.”
Wandler knew the RDC veterans after coaching against them while he was in Olds, but said he didn’t know their mental side.
“It’s a matter of knowing when to push them a bit or pat them on the back, and there’s been more pats than pushes,” he said.
Second-year power hitter Jessica Jones played a major role in the third set, both at the net and at the service line.
Jones finished with seven kills – six in the third set – and three aces.
Both Jones and setter Ashley Fehr, who had 16 assists, were given a break in the second set.
“Things just weren’t going right in the second set so I made a switch to get some more energy. But gave them a chance to regroup in the third and they played well, and came out on top,” said Wandler, who likes what he sees from his rookies.
“I’m really happy with our first-year players,” he said. “I’m impressed how composed they are, and the veterans have done a good job of embracing them and helping them.”
“We have some very good first-year players, they’re well-rounded and give us a lot of depth.”
The Queens have close to two weeks off before opening the regular season at home Oct. 15 against SAIT.
“At this point we’re in a good spot and ready for the season,” said Wandler.
“We need to tweak a few things and just continue to develop our identity as a team and we have time to do that and prepare for SAIT.”
Miranda Dawe had 10 kills, two aces and a block for the Queens, while Eagles star Keri Alcorn had 13 kills.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can also be seen at Danny’s blog at rdcathletics.com