If you pose the ‘what have you done for me lately’ question to the Red Deer College Kings volleyball team the answer will hang on the gymnasium wall very soon.
The Kings powered their way to a national championship and head coach Aaron Schulha would like nothing better than to bookend that feat.
“It’s never going to be easy to win it all but developing the culture that we have over the last few years in terms of winning back-to-back ACAC championships and being in the national final the last few years so with the guys we have returning, they have a better idea of what it takes.”
The Kings would be the odds on favorite to repeat as provincial champs but the team will have to do so without the services of a key component from last year in Chris Osborne who has headed back to the United States to work.
Schulha does have six players returning to help guide the nine first-year players and he will rely on five-year veteran Tim Finnigan to set an example once again.
“Tim’s our team captain and has been for the past few years and we kind of go with him and most of the time he’s at a very high level which is something I enjoy,” said Schulha.
“But he can’t be the sole leader with this group and we know that and he knows that too so he’s going to have lots of help.”
For his part, Finnigan is looking forward to the challenge which has been placed squarely in front of him and the other vets.
“Well, pressure is an opportunity. We love the pressure and we can perform under the pressure so it’s nothing new to us. We’re good with it,” he said.
The approach he plans on taking is making sure the newcomers to the team are clear on the common goal of repeating as provincial and then national champions this season.
The roadblock to that goal is all the other teams in the ACAC who have seen what this program has done over the years and have likely been taking notes.
Both the coach and the captain agree on how to handle having a target on their backs.
“We’re not worried about anybody else, just ourselves,” said Finnegan. “In this gym, every day at practice we just worry about us.”
“I’ve preached to the guys over the last few years in particular that as long as we worry about what we can control the results will look after themselves,” added Schulha. “So we’re very aware, we respect our opponents on a weekly basis but at the same time we’re more concerned about what’s going on in this gym and continue to improve on a weekly basis.”
Schulha is quick to point out he is comfortable with the players he can put on the floor in spite of the fact he has six veterans and nine first-year players. One of those rookies though is Teegan McGraw who comes to the Kings after four years with the University of Alberta Golden Bears. He will be one of two setters, the other being Luke Brisbane from Australia. It’s a position Schulha feels will be strong.
“Those two are very capable and I think by the end of the year I’ll have the two best setters in the ACAC if not the country,” he said.
The Kings’ first game at home will be Nov. 7th when they face Medicine Hat and raise their national banner that night as well.