Red Deer College Queens women’s volleyball coach Talbot Walton spent the entire season doing his best to avoid discussions about the potential to win back-to-back national championships.
Now he has no choice.
The Queens won their second consecutive Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championship on Saturday, beating the previously undefeated FX Garneau Elans of Quebec City 3-2 (25-22, 19-25, 22-25, 26-24, 15-13) in Longeueil, Que.
“That first one we just didn’t know what to expect, we didn’t know if we were ever capable of doing it, but we made it happen,” said Queens head coach Talbot Walton. “This year we had that capacity and understanding that it was doable and always just found a way to win …
“I think it’s tough to win once and very difficult, almost impossible, to win two in a row anymore. I think with the change over we had, to win two in a row, wow, that’s a testament for what we have as a group of athletes and people.”
After winning their first national championship in 30 years last season, the Queens had a lot of work to get back to the top of the mountain this year. They lost their two star powers in Brooke Sutter and all-Canadian and tournament MVP Amber Adolf, and then they had a host of injuries they had to work through to their replacements.
Despite a No. 1 ranking in the CCAA for much of the year and a 22-2 record, they were far from dominating, winning on defence, experience and guile.
As they started to get healthy at the end of the season, they suddenly looked the part of defending national champion.
They hit their stride at provincials, beat the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves in the gold medal game, and then continued to roll at nationals, beating the host Lynx d’Édouard-Montpetit and Grande Prairie to get back to the gold medal game.
The final against FX Garneau was an instant classic, with each set tightly contested with the fifth going the full distance.
“That was one of the best matches I’ve ever had the opportunity of coaching, just the closeness of the teams in the third, fourth and fifth sets, it was a pleasure to be part of,” said Walton. “You just kind of sit back and watch and let your athletes do the job they’re supposed to do.”
Walton is already dodging questions about a potential third straight title, and for good reason. The Queens are losing eight players off of this championship roster, including championship MVP Leah Koot and ACAC South All-Conference players Alex Donaghy and Madelyne Quinn.
“Looking at three-peating is something that would be a very distant sort of dream for us at this time, because we don’t know exactly what we’re going to look like,” said Walton. “It will be a monstrous effort because some of those teams we saw at nationals basically have their whole group back again next year. We have a lot of things piled against us, but I’m not going to count us out. We’re going to try and do the same.”
Holland College in Charlottetown, P.E.I. will host the women’s national championship in 2016.