For the second consecutive year the Red Deer College Queens volleyball team have emerged victorious from the Canadian Collegiate Athletics Association’s (CCAA) national championship tournament where they defeated three of the countries top teams to become the 2015 CCAA national champions.
The tournament took place on the home court of the Cégep Édouard-Montpetit’s Lynxes in Longueil, Quebec over the course of last Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
After winning their Thursday game against the home team, the Queens advanced to Friday’s semi-final where they faced Alberta silver medalists, the Grande Prairie College Wolves, who they had defeated two weeks previously in an intense battle for the provincial gold.
Queens’ Coach Talbot Walton said the semi-final game was a tricky scenario for his team adding the Wolves were, “Looking for redemption” after their loss at provincials.
The Queens, who were seeded first going into the tournament, conquered the Wolves once more, which landed them in the finals on Saturday against the Cégep FX Garneau Élans, who were slated third going into the tournament.
The Queens got off to a good start early in the game winning the first of five sets in a 25-22 win. The next set saw the Queens fall short 22-25, to which Walton attributed to sheer skill played on the court by the Élans tying the match 1-1.
“After we lost the second one we kind of said okay well that happens in volleyball when a team takes their foot off the gas a bit,” said Walton. “FX just played better in that second set, then in the third set, we saw halfway through it that it was starting to get pretty tight and we were getting away from our relaxed way of playing.”
Again the Queens lost their footing in the third set and lost 19-25, leaving both the athletes and the coaches on edge.
“We then wanted to get out of that mind set and really just started reinforcing to the athletes to play our style of volleyball and get into that zone,” explained Walton of the fourth set. “In that fourth set we really saw the team come together and relax.”
The reinforcement rallied the girls to come back in a battle to win the fourth set 26-24 sending the game into a fifth set to 15 points.
“The fifth set was back and forth the entire way and we were down a little bit near the end, but we closed the gap and scored when we needed to score to finish it out.
“There were times when we really could’ve, maybe even should’ve, lost that match but we just dug down and found a way to do it.”
Walton added the game was exactly what a gold medal championship game should look like with a picture perfect massive block from RDC to win the game.
“You want to be able to watch both teams just go for it and leave everything on the floor and these two teams had that mentality,” he explained. “Sure, it was exciting and nail biting – but I was just so proud of the way our team kept their composure and plugged away until the very end.”
His excitement and pride is validated as it is rare for teams to return to take home consecutive national championships.
“You have to not only make it through your season in a high enough place to go to provincials, you then have to perform at provincials, and then go to nationals and perform again,” said Walton, who has coached the Queens for 15 seasons, in which the last seven have ended in four provincial championships and two national championships. “Winning once in your career is a tough bet – winning twice is something that I thought would be near impossible.”
Madelyne Quinn, Queens Libero, a position responsible for receiving attacks in the backcourt from the opposing team, received player of the game for her 27 outstanding defensive digs in the championship game which also marked the end of Quinn’s career at RDC.
“She really made the difference for us at nationals defensively,” said Walton. “She really allowed us a lot of opportunity to score in our defense to offense transition.”
Team MVP for the tournament went to Queens outside hitter Leah Koot who, despite having barely recovered from an ankle injury weeks before, was able to play in both provincials and nationals.
“She’s really what I what call an emotional leader,” said Walton. “Her enthusiasm to compete is really high and it’s infectious. In the fourth set we really saw her give the team an injection of that and allow that emotion to elevate the playing level of the team.”
Tournament All Stars from RDC included Queens’ setter Bronwyn Hawkes, middle blocker Alex Donaghy and outside hitter Miranda Dawe.