The RDC Queens have prepared for almost everything.
Heading into the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Women’s Volleyball Championships Thursday in Quebec, the Queens still aren’t sure exactly what to expect.
Nationals are an entirely different beast compared to the regular season and even the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championship tournament.
Playing unfamiliar opponents rarely happens on the ACAC schedule and Queens head coach Talbot Walton said his group simply has to be ready to adjust on the fly when they open the tournament against Fanshaw Falcons out of Ontario Thursday.
“I think we’re just ready to go play. Get in that state where you get through the provincial championships and you really have to maintain the skill level and intensity and for the most part they don’t want to learn anything new. They just want to go and have an experience,” Walton said.
“The moment is definitely bigger. Preparation is somewhat similar to ACAC’s in that you don’t know what you’re going to get or what that team is going to look like. We have a couple videos. The conferences themselves, volleyball in B.C. is different from Ontario and Quebec. The style is always slightly different, you can’t prepare for some of those things… it’s more or less making sure your stuff is locked up tight.”
In the opener, they will especially have to find a way to limit two-time Ontario Collegiate Athletic Association Women’s Volleyball Player of the Year Janelle Albert.
In addition to her All-Canadian selection, the third-year from Brampton was named the 2019 CCAA Women’s Volleyball Player of the Year. She led the OCAA offensively, averaging 4.89 kills per set.
RDC isn’t short of impact players either, with left side hitter Tess Pearman (3.10 kills per set), right side Emma Holmes (3.09), outside hitter Erin Neufeldt (2.12) leading the RDC charge. ACAC South Rookie of the Year, Queens setter Emma Letkeman, ranked third in the league with 8.64 assists per set. All-Conference libero Kaylee Domoney averaged 3.47 digs per set and has been a stabilizing defensive presence all season.
Still, RDC is ranked fifth nationally and earned a wildcard bid to nationals after they fell just short in the ACAC Championships last week, losing a five-set match to the Briercrest College Clippers. The Queens handed the Clippers their only loss in the ACAC regular season, while the Clippers were the only team to beat the Queens.
Their regular-season record of 21-3 was the best for the team since 2016-17 and marks their return to nationals for the first time since 2015 when they won gold.
With that comes a lineup that is unfamiliar with the national stage at the collegiate level, but excited for the challenge none the less.
Second-year outside hitter Emma Holmes, who was ACAC South Rookie of the Year last year and an all-conference nomination this, thinks the team is primed for big things in Quebec this week.
“After provincials, we’ve come together as a team and the games we played, they were really close. We used so many people, the whole team helped and everyone did a really good job of doing their job,” Holmes said.
Holmes, however, may have a bit of an inside track of what life might be like on the biggest stage. Her brother, Ben has represented the RDC Kings at nationals in all but one of his seasons with the team.
Also, as a local product, Holmes saw nationals up close when the Kings hosted the CCAA National Championships last year and what the atmosphere can be like in that kind of spotlight.
“It was really cool to even watch nationals, would have been great to be apart of it. The whole atmosphere and the community just came together, I know in the finals and even the semis, the crowds was just so good and we’ll just bring that support over to Quebec with us,” Holmes said.
The Queens kick off the tournament Thursday at 1 p.m.