The Red Deer College Kings continue to reign supreme atop the men’s volleyball program in the Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference.
For the second year in a row, the Kings are heading off to the CCAA nationals as the ACAC men’s volleyball champions after defeating the Medicine Hat College Rattlers in a dramatic match on Saturday afternoon.
“It feels good. Winning never gets old,” laughed Kings’ Head Coach Aaron Schulha of his team’s gold medal performance at the ACAC Championships at RDC this past weekend.
Playing in front of their home fans, RDC posted a trio of solid performances on their way to the provincial crown, including a 3-1 (26-24, 25-22, 22-25, 25-15) victory over the NAIT Ooks in Thursday night’s quarterfinal and a win in straight sets over the Keyano College Huskies in the semis on Friday.
“I think that we played our most complete match of the season against Keyano in the semi final,” Schulha said.
The win over Keyano set up a final showdown against the Rattlers team who had been one of the Kings’ toughest opponents all year and who finished the regular season in a dead tie with RDC for first place in the ACAC South division.
“We knew if we got another chance to play Medicine Hat that it would probably go beyond three sets because that’s just the way it’s gone with them all year. They’re a good team and we match up pretty tight with them,” Schulha said.
After dropping the first set of the Saturday matchup 25-20, the Kings responded well by putting up two straight set wins, 25-17 and 25-20 to take all the momentum into the fourth set.
The Rattlers weren’t done yet though, opening the fourth with a 5-0 run and eventually going on to take a 25-17 set win.
“They got pretty hot from the service line in the fourth set and we just couldn’t hang with them that game,” Schulha said.
That sent the match into one final deciding game. It was a big moment for the Kings, but the hosts are no strangers to high pressure situations.
After jumping out to an early 8-5 lead in the final set, RDC went on to seal the deal and post a 15-5 set win to claim the gold.
Regan Feathers led the way for the Kings in the final, posting a total of 26 kills to help his team to victory.
The third year outside hitter from Western Australia put up a tournament-high 59 kills on the weekend to be named tournament MVP.
“We played potentially our best set of the season in the fifth, which is awesome,” Schulha said, noting that minus the fourth set against Medicine Hat, the Kings played some consistently high level volleyball throughout the weekend.
Both the Kings and Rattlers will now move on to play in the upcoming CCAA National Championship in London, Ontario in two weeks.
Schulha said the adversity the Kings faced not only in the match against Medicine Hat, but throughout the entire tournament will serve as good preparation for what the team is likely to face when they take on the best in the country.
“Regardless of the set scores we were pushed in every single one of our matches and that makes it that much better for us leading into two weeks time to come over some adversity and although it’s an advantage for us playing at home I think that at times that can be added stress on the guys too, so for us to play very high level volleyball against great competition in our own gym and get it done in a tight five-setter in the final was promising,” he said.
Heading into the tournament as the defending national champions, the Kings will also have the advantage of experience on their side.
“You can’t really replicate the pressure of a national championship and the best way to do that is to go through a provincial championship. It’s something that I think our guys would look forward to and play well with that kind of pressure,” Schulha said.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any easy matches, even in the quarterfinals. Just like that first round match with us and NAIT we’re going to have to be ready to go right off the hop and that’s fine with us.”
The CCAA National Championships will be held March 9th-11th at the Glenn Johnston Athletic Centre in London, Ontario.
Meanwhile the RDC Queens earned a bronze medal at the ACAC women’s volleyball championships this past weekend at Lakeland College.