RDC Kings volleyball head coach Aaron Schulha makes swift recruiting decisions.
Just a few weeks after the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Volleyball Championships, Schulha has already mostly filled the gaps for next season.
He will be losing starting setter Tom Wass, co-captains Ben Holmes and Mark DeWit. All three are near impossible to replace, but the new group of five should help offset those losses.
“I think our outside situation is quite deep. Losing both Ben and Mark hurts in the leadership piece, those are our two captains and have been great student-athletes in terms of what they bring to the gym, but also the weight room and classroom,” said Schulha.
“I think we have guys that are ready to take that next step in terms of leadership. We’ll have to make up for that as a collective, I don’t think any one or two guys are going to be Mark and Ben and I don’t expect them to be.”
Key in the recruiting battle was actually a breadth of local talent. They landed four locals, including two Lindsay Thurber Raiders, setter Jacob Hicks and middle Cody Noble will join the fold next year.
Hicks will battle Brett Theise, who is the incumbent for the starting setter job after the departure of Wass.
“He knows our system and as it sits with those two guys, it would be (Brett’s) to lose. Jacob is a super good athlete and real competitive guy. I think he needs some work on the technical end of things as well as decision making,” Schulha said Schulha, adding that assistant coach Blake Henwood will be a great help to his two undersized setters.
“Inexperience at setter, yes, Brett having one year with us and with the quality of group we had last year, he’s in a pretty good spot. Jacob has also played at a pretty high level throughout his career.”
In addition, two Red Deer products are returning from the university ranks, with Reece Lehman coming back to town after three seasons with the University of Calgary Dinos and Brody Kopec, who suited up for Thompson Rivers University last season.
Kopec, a six-foot-five outside hitter had an up and down freshman season with TRU, recording 1.56 kills per set. His match-high was a 22-kill day against the University of Saskatchewan midway through the year.
“He had a good year, TRU is usually a pretty deep squad and for him to get a decent amount of time is pretty impressive. He’s 6’5, really dynamic and jumps well. He’s one we’re excited about, he’s committed to us for two years,” said Schulha.
Lehman didn’t see the court much with the Dinos, only recording 12 kills in 11 sets over the Canada West U Sports season.
“Reece, going into year four, having played at that level, he’ll add to that leadership group as well. Even though he’s a fresh face to our program,” Schulha added.
“Growing up in Red Deer, the bulk of our guys would know him and I think they respect him as a player and a leader.”
The Kings also added another high schooler, picking up Zach Neufeld out of Harry Ainlay in Edmonton. Neufeld is a six-foot-three libero/ left side, that gives the Kings more depth for next season.
Schulha said he still plans to add a bit more depth as the offseason, including a third setter and another outside hitter to round out the bunch.
RDC was the ACAC champion last season and finished fifth in the CCAA Men’s Volleyball Championships.