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Volleyball Queens head coach receives bad news late


The RDP volleyball Queens head coach Talbot Walton received some tough news following the Canadian Colleges Athletic Conference championship, which was held at RDP.

Unexpectedly he lost both his starting setters — Dani Wiens, who was on the South Division’s All-Conference team, and Emma Letkeman, who had returned from the University of Alberta this past season.

It left Walton in a tough position to add a second, or even a third, setter to join third-year veteran Maria Brouwer.

“In the recruiting perspective in Alberta and Western Canada in the women’s division you almost have to have your recruiting done before Christmas or January or February at the latest,” said Walton. “Finding out in March put us behind the eight ball.”

Walton was fortunate in that Notre Dame grad Reid Adams hadn’t decided on her move for next season and committed to the Queens.

“I talked to Reid when she was in Grade 11 and she was interested in our program but at the time it looked like we had three setters in place,” explained Walton. “So we were fortunate in that she was still available. She lives just down the road from RDP and she can get the academic piece she’s looking for. She’s a good athlete and a hard-worker so we were lucky she hadn’t signed yet.”

As well Walton has former Lindsay Thurber star setter Maddy DeZutter on the roster. DeZutter came in as a libero, back row specialist. She had an outstanding season coming in off the bench to serve and work in the back row and work on taking over after All-Conference libero Francesca Sandini graduates next season.

“With Maddy we have that in the back of our minds,” said Walton. “She’s capable to step in if need be. We could use that option more than expected, we’ll see how it materializes over the first couple of months.”

The Queens also lost three of their veteran left side hitters in Jaiden Ferguson, Morgan Boisvert and All-Conference Emma Holmes.

“Big spots to fill,” said Walton. “Some people will be getting promotions for sure.”

Third-year Lauren Junck will anchour the left side this season. She has one of the best arms in the ACAC and took a step forward in the Nationals.

“She did and in her first year she carried a heavy load because of injuries. She has elite power and it will get her chance to be among the upper end of the power hitters in the league,” said the veteran RDP coach. “I expect her to have a consistent season.”

As well Sara Mistol returns for a third season and Nadia McKeage for a second.

“They’re good players who have developed in the last couple of years. They’ll get an opportunity this year and we’ll see what happens and if they rise to the challenge.

“It’s hard to replace the calibre of players who left, but we still have a good core in all our spots.”

Walton indicated he will likely add two recruits from central Alberta, who will work as outside hitters and back row specialists.

“They’re a couple of athletes who have decided to return to volleyball and hadn’t decided where to commit to and fortunately it worked out for us.”

Walton indicated the final paper work has yet to be finalized so he will wait and announce the signing “in the next week or two.”

The Queens also has fourth-year Rachel Perry returning after being an all-star at the Nationals, and second-year Maria Walton back on the right side.

Perry led the Queens in aces this season with 22, was third in digs with 72, tied for second with blocks at 18 and had 106 kills.

The Queens will be strong in the middle with four returnees in All-Conference Autumn Roos, South Rookie of the Year Raya Roesler, fourth year Abby Lowe and six-foot-two third-year Jailyn Stouffer.

Roesler, who was outstanding at the Nationals, and Stouffer also both had 18 blocks while Roos led the ACAC in blocks with 30.

“In the middle we have elite level talent,” said Walton. “We’ll look to get the ball to them in scoring positions this year which will go with our edge hitters.”

Walton expects to run a different offensive system this season.

“I don’t expect us to hit the ground running like we did this past season, but more like we were a couple years ago where we’ll be good come January. We’ll see what the team looks like in training and early on running a difference offence. It’s exciting, something new to focus on, to look at, to work at and get better at.”

The Queens finished out of the medals at the Nationals and it became obvious a few things they need to fine tune to move up this season.

“Our serve receive broke down a couple of times for sure,” said Walton. “We need to elevate our serving, which will help in training so we pass better which allows us to get more into our system. Then again we have a lot of things to work on.

“Those are things we’ll work on early on over the first couple of months and see how it materializes. We can start to figure out what we have in terms of personal and what that personal’s strengths are and how to maximize it as a team.”

The Queens will need that as the ACAC is one of the premier leagues in the CCAA, led by two-time CCAA champion Lakeland Rustlers.

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