Rode: Kings Volleyball take on new look next season

The two-time defending national champion RDC Kings volleyball team will have a slightly different look next season.

Head coach Aaron Schulha announced that all-star setter Luke Brisbane has committed to the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

But Schulha isn’t about to spend any sleepless nights worrying about it.

“It was a great opportunity for him and a natural progression for him both from an athletic and academic perspective,” he said. “We’ve had many outstanding student-athletes come through our program over the years and Luke would be right near the top in terms of a guy that combined the higher performance volleyball with very strong academics and community service.

“He is one of the best setters ever to play at RDC and we will miss him for sure. However, I’m excited to see what Luke is capable of doing at the U-Sports level and I’m excited to get to work with two every capable and hunger young setters next season.”

Schulha has commitments from six-foot-four Jake Rapin of Prince Alberta, Sask., and six-foot-three Aussie Tom Wass.

Rapin is left-handed and played for Team Saskatchewan and was a member of the Youth Development Program last season.

“His ceiling is high and he will be a difference maker for us,” said Schulha.

Wass is very athletic and played both setter and outside.

“We’re looking at him and Jake to push each other at the setting position and it should make for a lot of healthy competition and lots of practice and match reps for each guy,” said Schulha, who filled out his import quota with the addition of six-foot-eight Aussie Hamish Hazelden, who played at NAIT last year.

“Hamish was put in the middle last year when he returned from an injury, but was putting up big numbers as their opposite in the first half prior to going out,” said Schulha. “I look for him and Scott Irvine to battle on the right side, which again will make for healthy competition.”

Irvine is one of six returnees, joining middles Adam Turlejski from Australia and Ben Hankins, left side Tristan Dexter and Ben Holmes and outside hitter Parker Biletsky. As well middle Justin Lukacs, who played in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons has returned.

“Justin was a middle for us when we won in 2014, but we’re looking at converting him to the outside,” explained Schulha, who has five other new faces committed, including liberos Isaiah Stime from NAIT and Chris Peterson from SAIT.

“Isaiah is a very strong libero and it works out perfectly with him coming in with Mike (Sumner) moving to the U of A. Isaiah was their starting libero for the last two seasons and I’ve been impressed with his play against us at the ACAC championships and I’m excited to get a chance to work with him.”

Peterson is a Red Deer product, who Schulha sees as a strong addition to the team’s serve receive and defence.

A third player, who will look to work at libero is Austin Dennis from Eagle Butte.

“He committed early on and will likely get less time than Isaiah and Chris, but will learn a lot next season and will have a role to fill along with all the other guys.”

The other two newcomers are Mark DeWit of Lacombe and Steve Keating, who played for MacEwan University two years ago.

The six-foot-four DeWit will be vying for a spot in the mdidle.

“He is long and athletic and will certainly challenge for a starting spot next season,” said Schulha. “He has only two years of club volleyball, but his growth has been tremendous and I’m excited to see his continued growth at the ACAC level.

“As for Steve, he’s a six-foot-three outside hitter. He’s a leaper with a good arm and can play both the left side or the right side. He played with MacEwan but is now attending RDC.”

There will be a new look next season, but if past results mean anything the Kings will once again challenge for an ACAC and CCAA championship.

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at drode@reddeeradvocate.com.

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