It’s a golden year for the RDP Queens volleyball team.
The Queens put the finishing touches on an undefeated Alberta College Athletic Association season with a hard-fought 3-1 (25-23, 23-25, 25-14, 25-20) victory over the Lakeland Rustlers before a large, boisterous crowd at the Gary W Harris Canada Games Centre Saturday.
“I always wanted to win a provincial title and after being so close the last regular season (2019-20) we didn’t want that again,” said Queens star left side hitter Tess Pearman. “Our goal all year was to win this and win at home. It couldn’t be a better feeling.”
Interim head coach Chris Wandler believes heading into the season they had the depth to be fighting for the ACAC provincial title.
“Talking to Talbot (head coach Walton) back in the spring we knew we had a deep team and the possibility was there to be here. When we added (Jayden) Leong in August everyone knew it was there. As for being undefeated, we weren’t sure. That was anyone’s guess but that’s what it is.”
Although it looked like a relatively easy win, it was anything but. For the most part, the teams went point for point, especially in the first two sets. In fact, the Queens looked to take control when they were up 23-20 in the second set only to see the Rustlers dig down and pull the match even.
However, the Queens, who have the most experienced team in the league didn’t let it bother them. They pulled together that much more.
“It looked we got ahead of ourselves a little and we needed to give ourselves some extra focus. We were brought down to earth a bit and we just went out and played our game,” said Wandler.
Pearman looked back at the Queens come-from-behind 3-2 win over The King’s University Eagles Friday as a stepping stone to their play in the final.
“That was the hardest game I’ve ever played in,” she said. “It was so mentally draining as we got behind, pulled even, got behind again and then had to battle back. It was so hard it set us up for tonight.”
Wandler indicated the Queens last three matches before the final prepared them for a battle.
“Our last league game at Lethbridge went five, then a tough quarter-0final against them (Lethbridge) and then last night. They all prepared us for this atmosphere.
“It was a tough atmosphere but when we needed to be at our best we did it. When it was the toughest we executed at a fairly high level, which was the key piece.
“When it was time to get something done we did what was needed which showed our experience and the amount of tenacity that this group has.”
That tenacity showed on the defensive side. Led by outstanding libero Kaylee Domoney, the Queens turned the tide in their favour with their defensive game.
“We haven’t played defence like that all season,” said Wandler. “We execute offensively so well we didn’t need to but when you have matchups against teams of this level we had to. We went dig for dig … our backcourt was phenomenal.”
That was where Domoney, who finished with 17 digs, stood out. She could almost take a bow for winning the opening set when she made a spectacular diving save which led to a point and a 22-20 lead.
Although Pearman was named the RDP player of the game she brought Domoney up with her.
“She was our player of the game,” said Pearman. “She saves our butt every game. No player holds our team together like she does. She wins every game for us. She’s amazing and deserves the recognition.”
Wandler added ‘she started six years ago as a pebble and today’s she’s our rock. Everything we did was based around her.”
Domoney was playing her final match during her illustrious five-year career.
“I’m definitely real proud of us as a team,” she said. “As a team, we came and worked hard throughout the year.
“Tonight we extra worked hard on defence and it definitely helped when we prevent the ball from hitting the floor and transition into offence.”
Kaylee admitted they hadn’t been up against competition like TKU and Lakeland during the season.
“We responded in a positive way and under that kind of pressure we handled it.”
As for her final appearance at home.
“I enjoyed my whole six years (including last year which was cancelled) and a great environment to finish off. Knowing these fans were behind us definitely helped. It was amazing.”
The win was the 20th ACAC title for the Queens since 1964. They head to the Canadians at Holland College in PEI.
“We’re going in as champions … we earned our spot,” said Wandler. “I think we all take a sense of pride that we’re representing the best conference in the country and representing 13 other colleges.”
Pearman and Jaiden Ferguson finished with 13 kills each with Pearman adding 10 digs. Anna Carlson added 10 kills, five aces, eight digs and two blocks while McKenna Olson had six kills, Sidney Rix five kills, two aces and five blocks and Emma Lketkeman 41 assists. Jenay Varga had 18 kills for Lakeland.
Meanwhile TKU won bronze with a 14-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-21 win over Briercrest.
By Danny Rode