RDC Kings fifth year hitter Regan Fathers blasts a ball past a pair of VIU Mariners blockers at the RDC Christmas volleyball tournament at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre on Friday night. The tournament goes on throughout the weekend at RDC. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

RDC Kings rally for win over VIU Mariners at Christmas tourney

The RDC Kings got more than they bargained for to open the first annual Christmas volleyball tournament.

In a showcase of Canada’s top college volleyball talent, RDC hosted the VIU Mariners Friday to tip off the weekend festivities and was pushed to five sets in the opening match.

RDC eventually edged the Mariners 15-13 in the fifth set of a back-and-forth battle and won the match three sets to two (25-20, 27-29, 25-16, 23-25, 15-13). It was the first time in four tries this season the Kings won a five-set match.

Heading into the Christmas break, the Kings were ranked eighth in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association standings, while VIU, who play in the Pacific West, were unranked.

Still, the scrappy Mariners squad gave RDC all they could handle in the exhibition match.

“A little bit of what we’d expect. A lot of these matches are going to be up and down. Just based on whose looking after the first contact,” said RDC Kings coach Aaron Schulha.

“If we’re serving well and passing well, it’s a pretty easy game. When we were not looking after it from the service line– I thought at times some of the momentum swings had to do with effort plays.”

The home side won the first set handily 25-20, then took a 6-0 advantage in the second set but some inconsistent play crept in from there. Schulha noted that after a long Christmas break for his team and just a few practices, a little bit of rust is expected.

“I thought the first set we out-dug them and played better defence and coverage,” he said.

“Then the second set it was reverse. They were working their tails off. We were letting a few balls hit the floor without going after it. I think between the effort and the first contact pieces, a lot of that is going to determine how these matches go.”

He also added serving was a bit of a problem for his team and it’s something he hopes they can fix as the calendar turns to 2019.

RDC’s toughest test of the weekend comes Saturday when they square off against the Fanshawe College Falcons. Fanshawe is the top-ranked team in the country and has won all 27 sets they have played this season.

Schulha noted welcoming the top competition to the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre is the whole point of the newly established tournament. It will also prepare his group for what to expect when they host 2019 CCAA Men’s National Championships February.

“It should be five of the top teams in the country (this weekend),” Schulha said.

“A lot of these teams we’re going to see again and have to be that much better because they will as well. Just what the level is from a national perspective. For a lot of us, we get dialed in and focused on the (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference) because it’s so hard to get out of our conference.

“Our goal is always to win the conference, so we want to put ourselves in good position to do that. It’s also important for these guys to understand what the level is beyond our conference and where we have to be.”

RDC also plays Dec. 30 against les Titans de Limoilou at 2 p.m.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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