RDP Queens volleyball head coach Talbot Walton had his eye on Rachel Perry when she was playing club volleyball while in high school.
“I watched her play some tournaments and club ball and felt she would make an impact at this level,” said Walton.
However the Grande Prairie native had other ideas and joined the Grant MacEwan University Griffins.
“When I left high school I was eager to to play U Sport, so that’s why I chose MacEwan, and I was also eager to move out,” explained the 21-year-old.
But good things come for those who wait and earlier this year Perry contacted Walton about transferring to RDP.
“There were a lot of coaching changes at MacEwan and I was tired of the inconsistency and our team was very young when I first got there and not super successful,” she explained. “I was eager to move to a more successful team and I found that in Red Deer.”
The fact that the Queens are hosting the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championships this season is a nice benefit as well.
“Really didn’t know about that at first,” she said. “I was looking at some of the top ACAC teams and I didn’t want to go that far from home. As well I knew Vanessa Loos who played here a couple years ago and she had good things to say about the program so I reached out to Talbot. As well the facility here is a big reason as well.”
Rachel, who played some middle in high school, has played mainly on the right side and fit in perfectly with what Walton was looking for.
“We’re certainly grateful Rachel was looking at us when she considered transferring and we had a big hole to fill on the right side and she’s a great addition to work toward that solution.”
Over the years the Queens have had some of the premier right side players in the conference with Emma Holmes and Anna Carlson.
Holmes returned this season for two years with the University of Alberta, but has been playing the majority of the time on the left side. She however, does back up Perry.
“She’s a real good player and if I need a break it’s an easy switch,” added Perry.
Rachel has been solid for the Queens in the first portion of the season. She’s second on the team in kills to Lauren Junck with 50 in 25 sets and leads the team in service aces with 15.
Still, she feels things will only get better as the team finds the right chemistry.
“There’s a few new faces this year and it’s taken us some time to find the groove of things,” she said. “I know personally I’m a quiet person and it takes me a bit longer to get used to people.
“It’s getting there but we still have some growth to get where we want to be and where we know we can be.”
Rachel sees herself as a solid passer and “my blocking is getting better”.
“I found that university made me a smarter player, making smarter shots and knowing when to hit the ball hard and where.”
Perry was a dual sport athlete early in her school days.
“I played soccer until Grade 9, but I had to choose and I was one of the taller players at six foot and I liked the sport more.”
She also had all the credentials in high school, leading her club team to back-to-back provincial tier I titles where she was an all-star in both finals.
One of her thrills this season was being named the Queens player of the game in Grande Prairie.
“I didn’t know I’d win it, but I had a big service run in the middle of the match,” she said. “That was a thrill with all my relatives there and I had a couple of my relatives handing out the award at the end which was exciting.”
The Queens have posted a 6-2 record and are tied for top spot in the ACAC South Division with Briercrest.
The two losses don’t sit that well with Perry.
“Losing those games was hard to take … I know I was upset, but there’s always a new learning opportunity and in practice, we were working on being smarter on where we place the ball. So the losses did give us the opportunity to make us better.”
“I thought we played some of our best volleyball at the end of August and the beginning of September when we were in Texas,” said Walton. “I find that the level of expectations we’re putting on ourselves is a lot. We’re putting pressure on ourselves to try to do well every play. We need to play freely and figure out that comfort area and how to play high end Queens volleyball.”
Rachel feels that will come.
“The second half we need to find that consistency, which we will. We have a lot of depth which is one of our strengths.”
Rachel is taking business at RDP and will be with the Queens at least two years.
“I do have a third year so I’ll see about it when it gets to that,” she said, adding she may look at playing pro after finishing her degree.
“That’s something I’ll think more about next year.”
The volleyball squads are at home Friday against Concordia University of Edmonton. The Kings take an 8-0 record into the match with CUE at 1-7. The CUE women are 3-5.
The basketball squads are at CUE Friday and host The Kings University Saturday.
The Queens, who are 6-0, lost to both teams in exhibition play. CUE is 3-5 and TKU 4-2. The Kings are 5-1 with CUE 4-4 and TKU 0-6.
The hockey Kings, who have run into a string of injuries, have the weekend off while the Queens host NAIT Saturday at 7 p.m. in a battle for top spot. RDP is first at 10-2 with NAIT at 9-3.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at email@example.com