Brent Forster - RDC
Red Deer, AB - The two most winning collegiate men's volleyball programs went head-to-head to kick off their national championship journey, and the home team came out on top. Backed by a 12 kill performance from RDC middle Adam Turlejski, the host Red Deer College Kings downed the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) Champion Limoilou Titans, in three sets (25-11, 25-21 and 25-22). Energized by the home crowd, the Kings played perhaps their best match all season.
Turlejski was on a mission. The fifth-year was involved early in the first set, recording three kills to give RDC an 11-6 edge. Limoilou's Steven Boutin tried to rally his team with a kill but RDC built on its lead. With five kills from Regan Fathers and Turlejski, the Kings salted away a 25-11 win. RSEQ Player of the Year Nicolas Fortin led the Titans offensively with three kills.
Regan Fathers (1) Pic -Colby Brochu Photography
In the second set, Fortin pushed the Titans ahead 7-4 with a couple of hard swings from the right. With Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Player of the Year Fathers at the service line, RDC eventually knotted the set 14-14. Steven Keating's solo block ignited the Kings and the home team wrapped up a 25-21 victory. Over both sets, Charles St-Aubin had 11 assists for the Titans. Setter Thomas Wass contributed 19 for the Kings.
Kills from Limoilou's Nicolas Doucet and Charles St-Aubin provided their side a 9-7 lead in the third set but the Kings remained composed. With Jonathan (JJ) Graham at the service line, the RDC Kings jumped ahead 17-16. The Titans put up a good fight, but the Kings sealed a 25-22 decision, taking the match in three sets.
Kings Head Coach Aaron Schulha thought the RDC Player of the Game, Turlejski, played a very strong match. "Adam's body has been broken down a few times over his five years with us, so we've been a little careful the last little while, getting him in that right spot for this weekend. We were in that right spot tonight anyway," he said. "He looked really fresh and energized. He's a different dynamic when he's on the floor because he's a big energy guy. Adam was as good as I've seen in a long time, so hopefully that is a sign of things to come."
The Titans didn't have an answer for Turlejski down the middle. "Regardless of who was in the middle for them, we thought that they would be a little bit smaller," said Schulha. "They had a couple smaller left sides against Regan, so we knew that we had to exploit their middle and their left side block. I thought that we did that."
The RDC Kings did not get fazed when Limoilou pushed back and held a slight lead. "I thought our guys did a good job of staying the course and we buckled down," said Schulha. "We were down 17-14 in the second and battled back. It was really nice to see. The composure and amount of calm was very promising."
The home town Kings were mentally strong which translated into a high level of execution. As a group, the RDC Kings hit for 50 per cent efficiency. "There's pressure on everyone. There's pressure on Limoilou as the defending champions. We've reiterated that the last two weeks in terms of embracing it. It's going to be loud and the crowd will be on our side," said Schulha. "Our guys looked really strong in terms of where their head is at, and the execution piece. I thought the energy was good, being able to not have Regan with 30 kills is also nice. Tom was as good as I've seen in a while too. He did a good job of spreading the ball around and he was also quite calm."
Tom Wass (3) and Mark DeWit (8) Pic - Colby Brochu Photography
Tom Wass totaled 28 assists, four kills, two service aces and one stuff. Regan Fathers contributed 14 kills, one dig and one stuff block for RDC. Nicolas Fortin had 12 kills, three digs, two assists and one stuff for Limoilou.
RDC Player of the Game: Adam Turlejski – 12 kills, three stuff blocks and two aces, 0.556 hitting percentage
Limoilou Player of the Game: James Chretien – seven kills, four digs, one stuff, 0.400 hitting percentage
Turlejski and Chretien Pic - Colby Brochu Photography
"We will clean a few things up tomorrow - service line stuff in particular," said Schulha. "We've come a ways mentally the past few weeks, and are in a good spot."
On Friday, March 8, the RDC Kings will play the VIU Mariners at 8:00 p.m. The Mariners swept the Humber Hawks (25-22, 25-22 and 25-23).
Tickets can be purchased online.