There's something to be said about momentum and timing in sports. But talent, preparation and an undeniable work ethic never hurt either. The Red Deer College Kings Volleyball team battled significant injuries during the regular season but still stacked up an impressive 19-5 record. Even though the Kings racked up 3 straight wins to end the season and finished in a tie for most points in the south, they would say that they hadn't played their best volleyball yet. A talented Kings lineup captured some improved health, got on a roll and won another 3 straight matches to claim an Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) gold medal as they played at an elite level. RDC entered Saturday's Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) gold medal match with 2 more consecutive wins at the Men's Volleyball National Championship and the Kings elevated their game another notch in London, Ontario.
The Red Deer College Kings faced the Titans de Limoilou in a gold medal rematch at the CCAA Men's Volleyball National Championship. Entering the match, the Titans de Limoilou hadn't lost a set in their past 2 games. The RDC Kings won 6 sets and only dropped 1 on their journey to the finals. It was an intense showdown for gold. After the Kings jumped out to a 2 set to 0 lead, the Titans battled back to tie the match 2-2. A composed RDC Kings team took the 5th set to claim their 3rd national title in 4 years.
The 1st set was back-and-forth in the early going. After Ty Moorman's kill tied the set 15-15 off a Luke Brisbane quick set up the middle, the Kings started to pull away and they eventually won 25-21. The RDC Kings had many student-athletes involved in the offence and Limoilou couldn't find a solution for the Kings' weapons. Regan Fathers, Brian Grenier, Matthew Lofgren and Moorman picked up kills for RDC.
After Limoilou opened the 2nd set with a quick 2-0 lead, RDC went on a 12-2 run and held a 12-4 advantage. Fathers and Adam Turlejski picked up service aces en route to a 25-18 set win. The Kings took a commanding 2 sets to 0 lead. While the RDC Kings were composed in the opening set, their game looked even more dialled in as the 2nd set progressed.
RDC opened the 3rd set on a positive note with a Turlejski kill. Around halfway through the set Limoilou led by 3 (13-10) with some strong blocking. The Titans de Limoilou eventually took the set 26-24 to narrow the RDC Kings lead 2 sets to 1.
After the Kings went up 11-8 in the 4th set, Limoilou's Head Coach Rock Pickard called a time-out. Turlejski put RDC ahead 19-17 with a kill down the middle. Brisbane made a nice back set to the Bachelor of Commerce student who pounded the ball down. Grenier and Fathers picked up several key points but Limoilou battled back and eventually came away with a close 26-24 win to even the match at 2 sets each.
A Hollywood script couldn't have been written better for volleyball fans. A 5th and final set would decide the title. The Kings opened the 5th set with a 3-0 lead from a Turlejski stuff block and a kill from Fathers. Rock Pickard called a time-out when RDC pulled ahead 7-3. The Titans narrowed the gap to 1 point (11-12) but RDC showed a calm demeanour and earned a 15-12 win to take the match and CCAA gold. After Turlejski's final kill hit the floor, the RDC Kings streamed onto the court to celebrate.
RDC had many student-athletes contribute in the victory. Fathers accumulated 28 kills, 2 service aces, 9 digs and 2 stuff blocks. Brisbane contributed 1 kill, 56 assists, 9 digs and 1 stuff block. Lofgren notched 6 kills, Grenier stacked up 11 and Turlejski picked up 8 and the final point to seal the win. Michael Sumner had 4 assists and 3 digs. Once again, the RDC Kings coaching staff had the student-athletes well prepared.
Ty Moorman was named the Kings player-of-the-game. The Penticton native picked up 10 kills, 2 digs and 1 stuff block. Nicolas Fortin received the honour for the Titans and finished with 18 kills.
Kings Volleyball Head Coach Aaron Schulha recognized the importance of the Kings' mental toughness in the victory.
"This match was reminiscent of our season in a nutshell. We made our lives more difficult than it needed to be at times but we showed great resiliency and fight," said Schulha. "We really turned the corner in the last month and became a tough team mentally and we needed every bit of that this weekend."
The Kings played solid volleyball all weekend and many student-athletes played large roles in the win.
"Our serve-receive was solid all weekend and I was very happy to see Matt (Lofgren) recognized as a Second Team All-Star. Brian (Grenier) played his best match of the season in the finals which is incredible," said Schulha. "Mike (Sumner) was outstanding again. Ty (Moorman) and Luke (Brisbane) were First Team All-Stars and Regan (Fathers) was the Tournament MVP."
Schulha credited his team and coaches. The Kings Head Coach was joined by assistant coaches Aaron Yaskinski, Adam Sillery and Blake Henwood in Ontario and all 4 coaches were key contributors to the team's success.
"It was a year with a lot of adversity and overcoming that helps make the win even more rewarding," said Schulha. "I am super proud of my team and coaches. I am truly surrounded by some of the best volleyball minds in the country and it makes it even better that they are also my best friends."
Earlier on Saturday, the Medicine Hat College Rattlers defeated the host Fanshawe Falcons in 5 sets and claimed bronze. The win reinforced the talented and competitive nature of ACAC Men's Volleyball with 2 of the top 3 teams in the nation from the Alberta Conference.
The Red Deer College Kings Volleyball program continues to make history. The RDC Kings have won 13 CCAA Men's Volleyball National Championships since 1995. The Camosun Chargers will host the 2018 CCAA Men's Volleyball National Championship March 7-10 in Victoria, British Columbia.