Red Deer, AB - In the semi-final match, Lacombe's Mark DeWit powered the Red Deer College Kings over the Vancouver Island University (VIU) Mariners in three sets (25-23, 25-20 and 26-24), advancing to the national championship final against the Fanshawe Falcons on Saturday.
Pic - Colby Brochu Phoitography
In the first set, Braydon Brouwer pushed the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST) Champion VIU Mariners to a six point lead (8-2), but the Kings responded with a 9-3 run to even it 11-11. Setter Tom Wass contributed on both sides of the ball, recording seven assists, one dig and one stuff to push the home team ahead 17-12. VIU's Jeff Webb and Doug Groenendijk narrowed the gap but the Kings picked up a 25-23 decision.
While Kings Head Coach Aaron Schulha didn't like the start, he appreciated the response."We started about as poorly as we could have, in all three sets," he said. "We were able to right the ship and figure things out. We were resilient and stayed the course when things weren't going well."
"Like last night, when we were struggling we weren't looking after the pass. The biggest turnaround for us, besides looking after the pass, was working our tails off on defence in that first set," said Schulha. "There were a couple of key points when we had a couple of good scramble plays that we were able to get solid touches on. Those are huge energy points and we need more of those tomorrow."
The Mariners had another strong start (5-1) in the second set. The Kings eventually snuck ahead, but six-foot-six Adam Kapteyn, of the Mariners, recorded a stuff block, knotting the set 13-13. RDC went on a 12-7 run, sealing a 25-20 win. Over two sets, Regan Fathers and Mark DeWit had eight kills each for the Kings. Braydon Brouwer recorded five kills and Jeff Webb chipped in with four for the Mariners.
DeWit (8) and Wass (3) Pic - Colby Brochu Photography
In the third set, back-to-back blocks from Regan Fathers on the right pushed the Kings ahead 8-6. Shortly after, Jared Parhar and Jeff Webb recorded kills to keep VIU within two (14-16). The Kings maintained the two point margin and earned a 26-24 decision to advance to the gold medal match. Regan Fathers accumulated 17 kills, five digs, four stuffs and one assist for RDC. Tom Wass stacked up 36 assists, eight digs, two kills and one stuff.
Jeff Webb contributed seven kills and six digs for VIU.
DeWit with representative from Holiday Inn and Brouwer Pic - Colby Brochu Photography
RDC Kings Player of the Game: Mark DeWit – 11 kills, three stuffs, two digs, one assist, 0.714 hitting percentage
VIU Mariners Player of the Game: Braydon Brouwer – 10 kills, three stuffs, one dig, 0.304 hitting percentage
The experience from veteran players like Regan Fathers and Adam Turlejski came to the forefront. "We have a pile of fifth-years on our team and for good reason. Even the young guys know what the culture is and they are putting it into motion," said Schulha. "With the knowledge we have on the bench with my assistant coaches, Keith in particular, those guys are putting the right things in guy's ears when they need it, and not saying anything when they don't need it. It was a tough one and they will all be tough at nationals but we did what we needed to do. We are where we wanted to be from day one."
On Saturday, March 9 at 8:00 p.m., the RDC Kings will compete against Fanshawe Falcons in the national championship final and the atmosphere will be electric. The Falcons edged the Keyano College Huskies in five sets (25-19, 21-25, 21-25, 25-22 and 15-12).
"It will be a battle. They are undefeated for a reason and have really good athletes but we are looking forward to it," said Schulha. "It is about as story book as you can get - national final at home against an undefeated team. It's going to be fun."
The VIU Mariners will play the Griffons de l'Outaouais in the bronze semi-final on Saturday at 12:00 p.m.
Tickets to Saturday's matches can be purchased online.