The Red Deer College Queens entered this season with a target on their collective backs being the defending national champions.
This season the Queens are off to a solid start which has resulted in a second target being placed there as the Queens are the number one ranked team in the country.
“We’ve talked about the target on our back a few times and no matter how often you talk about it it’s still there every single time you suit up against a new opponent,” said Queens head coach Talbot Walton. “They probably look at it as their chance to beat a national champion and I’m sure in the same situation I’d be doing the same thing.”
Each night out other teams are stepping up to measure their game against the Queens but it’s a slightly different squad on the floor than last year.
With some good recruiting two years ago, 12 of the 16 players from last year returned to the Queens, according to Walton.
“With the four new people that came in, two are from high school and two are transfer students. So we did manage to pick up some experience,” he said.
Many of the players who are taking over as the front liners for the Queens in 2014 were not in that position as much last year but Walton said he’s pleased with the way the season has gone to this point, posting a record of 10-1.
It’s how they’ve been doing it which has the coach feeling good about the year so far.
He said it’s tough with a new core of athletes to step into a match and expect to play at a high level, adding expecting and doing are two different things.
“That’s why I’m happy with the way we’ve been able to at least manage the game, extend it over into longer sets and then find ways to come back and win,” he said.
The Queens are maybe not as experienced in some positions as last year but Walton said they still have athletes who can change the complexion of a game, pointing to players like Bronwyn Hawkes, Leah Koot, Miranda Dawe and Alex Donaghy as examples.
“Our spark plug is going to come from being a consistent team that uses some of those big time plays to create some excitement and momentum,” he said.
At 10-1 heading into the break it seems the spark is there.