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RODE: Pair of volleyball standouts return to RDP Queens for Nationals


Hosting the Canadian Colleges Women’s Volleyball championship was a great opportunity for Emma Holmes to put the finishing touches on her college career where she feels the most comfortable.

In the case of Emma Letkeman, it allowed her to return to where she had her best success at the post-secondary level.

Both RDP stars returned this season after spending time with the University of Alberta Pandas — Holmes for two seasons and Letkeman for one.

“I finished my degree last year at the U of A, but I had the opportunity to return and play out my final year of eligibility here, and I really wasn’t ready to quit volleyball, so what better place to do it and get a chance to play in the Nationals,” Holmes said.

For Letkeman, it was like returning home.

“I love the program and wanted to play for Talbot (Queens head coach Walton) again, so I was excited to get an opportunity to come back,” she said.

Letkeman, who has one year of eligibility remaining, didn’t get much playing time last season with the Pandas after recovering from an ankle injury, which was one of the main reasons she left RDP following the 2021-22 season.

“I had ankle surgery after that last season at RDP and I wasn’t sure what was happening with the injury and wanted a chance to be close to family in Edmonton to recover completely before I came back to play,” she said. “I missed the first half of last season but played as a serving sub after Christmas.”

Both Emmas have impressive credentials at the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference level.

Both were rookies of the year — Holmes in 2018-19 and Letkeman the following season — while Holmes was on the South Division All-Conference team in 2018-19 and 2019-20 as well as this season. Letkeman was on the All-Conference squad in 2021-22.

This year, Letkeman shared setting duties with veteran Danielle Wiens, who was named to the South All-Conference team.

Although the two battled it out for playing time, they have a great rapport.

“I think we’re both awesome setters and it’s been fun to play again with one of the best setters and teammates I’ve played with,” said Letkeman. “We’re both super supportive of each other, and no matter who’s on the court, the other has her back.

‘“It’s great for the team in that if I’m playing and things aren’t going well Dani can step in. We both want what’s best for the team.”

As for Holmes, she’s made a change from her first time at RDP.

Coming out of Lindsay Thurber she played on the right side her two seasons with the Queens while at the U of A they switched her to the left side.

“They did move me, but I didn’t play the first season, while the second, they used me a decent amount of time,” she explained. “I didn’t mind playing left side although I think I prefer the right side. The tough thing is transferring back without much practice time.”

H0lmes has played the majority of this season on the left side, although she has played right side when Rachel Perry was out. Perry was injured at the provincials last weekend in Lethbridge, moving Holmes back to the right side for the bronze medal game — a 3-0 loss to Briercrest.

Holmes said she doesn’t see much difference in styles between Wiens and Letkeman.

“There’s not much difference; in fact, I think when they switch, it affects the opposition more as they have to make the adjustment.”

As for adjustments, Holmes has to change her hitting style slightly if she switches sides.

“I think on the left side, I use more off-speed stuff, especially down the line,” she explained.

She also has to serve receive and pass more as a left side.

“I did pass when I was on the right side, but it’s a change I just have to hang in there.”

Both Holmes and Letkeman are comfortable heading into the Nationals, which run March 6-9 at the Gary W Harris Canada Games Centre.

Letkeman was the starting setter for the Queens when they won bronze in 2019-20 in Quebec and in 2021-22 in Prince Edward Island.

Holmes was on the 2019-20 team and with the Pandas at the U Sport Nationals in 2021-22.

“It certainly nice to know what to expect,” said Letkeman. “It would certainly be nice to win another medal, especially playing at home. That will be exciting.”

For Holmes, it’s a perfect way to finish her playing career.

“My final games on home court means a lot,” she said. “It means a lot playing at the Nationals any time, but at home with family and friends here you want to leave everything on the court.”

Although the Queens had their ups and downs, especially in the second half of the season, Holmes feels they have the talent to push for am medal.

“We know what we can do and it’s a matter of putting it all together and playing with some fight and energy,” she said.

The Queens go into the Nationals ranked sixth and face Ontario champion Humber Hawks of Toronto at 6 p.m. March 6. The winner will face the winner of second-ranked Vancouver Island University Mariners of Nanaimo and the UKC Blue Devils of Halifax, who play at 8 p.m.

On the other side of the draw, the Capilano Blues of North Vancouver meet Quebec champion Nordiques de Lionel-Groulx of Sainte-Therese at 1 p.m., and ACAC champion Lakeland Rustlers clash with the CMU Blazers of Winnipeg at 3 p.m.

The semifinals are set for March 7 at 6 and 8 p.m. with the bronze medal game March 9 at 6 p.m., followed by the gold medal game. Game times March 8, which are all bronze medal playoff games, are at 3, 6 and 8 p.m.

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at