Keeping local talent at home has always been a priority of RDP Kings volleyball head coach Aaron Schulha.
So when Hunting Hills middle blocker Jax Wasylowich showed an interest in the program it was an easy fit.
“Jax is an exciting local prospect. He is extremely dynamic with an explosive jump and arm swing,” said Schulha. “It’s always nice to keep solid local recruits at RDP and we’re excited to work with Jax and watch him impact our program over the coming years.”
Going into his Grade 12 season Wasylowich wasn’t sure about his future.
“I honestly had no idea about playing beyond high school until my coach (Kings assistant coach Blake Henwood) talked to me about it and gave me the idea of playing at college. He gave me a list of schools and also wanted me to practice with the Kings and that’s where I met Schulha.”
It couldn’t have worked out better for the six-foot-three Red Deer native.
“It’s exciting to play at home and with a great program.”
The fact he played under Henwood Jax knows the RDP system.
“Having played under Blake, I know that he is well-coached and familiar with our terminology and systems,” said Schulha.
Plus he gets to play with his stepbrother, Jacob Hicks.
“He’s a couple years ahead of me and he went to Thurber so I never did play with him, or against him, so it’s exciting to be on the same team with him,” said Wasylowich, 18, who got into volleyball a little later than usual.
“I started in the club program in Grade 9 as some of my (middle school) teammates were playing,” he explained. “That’s when I really got into the sport.”
Jax was a starter in Grade 9 and in the JV program in Grade 10. His Grade 11 season was all but cancelled because of Covid.
“This year I got a chance to start and play most of every set and it’s been my favourite season so far,” he said. “I got a chance to connect with a lot of different people and play in a number of tournaments.”
The Kings U18 Club program is just finishing their season with the provincials and nationals still ahead. Competing in the nationals is something Jax would love to add to his resume.
“Our U15 team won the provincials but we didn’t go to the nationals because of Covid,” he explained.
He’s looking forward to reaching the national level with the Kings.
“I watched them play at the Nationals when they were in Red Deer and it would be awesome to play at that level.”
Jax has played primarily middle his whole career and feels there’s still a lot he can learn.
“I played some left side in school, but mainly in the middle,” he said. “I feel my attack is my strength with defence my weakness. But I did see a big progression in my game over the last year, mostly with the club program.
“I got a chance to play with and against a lot of higher calibre players and you pick up things.”
Jax wants to work on the defensive side of the game and may look at playing beach volleyball this summer.
“It does makes you work on your defence,” he agreed.
Wosylowich isn’t sure exactly what he’ll ultimately take in school so is registered in Open Studies this coming season.
He is one of two younger middles Schulha has signed so far, joining Team Saskatchewan product Ryan Teasdale.
“We feel both young guys will push for playing time right away,” said the veteran RDP head coach, who won his fifth ACAC title this season, finishing third at the CCAA finals.
The Kings have a solid group returning with five starters including All-Canadian setter Maddux Greves, who was the ACAC male athlete of the year for all sports.
Others returning are rookie of the year left side Brett lower, middle Dillon Gauci, power hitter Nick Possingham and libero JJ Graham.
Also returning is backup setter Brett Theise Dante Furlan, Evan Ockerman, Hicks and Zach Neufeld.
Schulha has also added two transfers in outside hitters — six-foot-four Caleb Peters, who played with the College of the Rockeies in Cranbrook and six-foot-five local product Brody Kopec, who spent a year at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.
‘We’ll look to add one or two others in the next couple of weeks to have a 16-man roster,” said Schulha. “The ACAC will no doubt,l be extremely competitive once again but we’re excited about our group and will be coming in with a chip on our shoulders with how things finished last season.”
The Kings lost their opener at the Nationals to host Limoilou before winning bronze.
“We’re already looking forward to getting started in the fall,” Schulha concluded.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org