Red Deer, AB - The atmosphere at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre during the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Men's Volleyball National Championship final was simply electric. The host Red Deer College Kings had the majority of fans behind them in the sold out facility, but unfortunately the visiting Fanshawe Falcons took the final bow.
The Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) Champion Falcons continued their undefeated play in the regular season, OCAA playoffs and CCAA National Championship. They were strong from the service line and limited their errors en route to a four set gold medal win over the host Red Deer College Kings (25-12, 25-13, 22-25 and 25-23).
Four different Falcons picked up kills to propel their team ahead 11-4 in the early stages of the first set. Zach Albert's three kills and 75 per cent hitting efficiency helped the Falcons increase their lead, and they wrapped up a 25-12 decision. Regan Fathers and Ben Holmes had three kills each for RDC.
Regan Fathers (1) Pic - Colby Brochu Photography
In the second set, Cole Jordan and Zach Albert helped the Falcons take a 13-8 edge. Fanshawe increased its lead and finalized a 25-13 win. Over two sets, Zach Albert led the Falcons' offence with eight kills. Regan Fathers had four kills for the Kings.
Kings Head Coach Aaron Schulha noted the difficulty of climbing back into the match after dropping the opening two sets. "They played tremendous volleyball right from the jump. They seemed more loose and we seemed like a deer in the headlights those first couple of sets," he said. "You get down pretty heavy against a team like that, two-nothing, and not close. It is hard to claw your way back."
The RDC Kings increased their play and level of execution in the third. From the middle, Adam Turlejski put the Kings ahead by two (8-6). Strong play from Cole Jordan kept the Falcons within a pair (18-20). Setter Tom Wass connected with Regan Fathers late and the Kings won 25-22.
"It was nice to see more resiliency in the third but we allowed them to build a lead," said Schulha. "The biggest difference is their best players were their best players."
A right side block and strong defence inspired the Falcons to an 11-4 lead in the fourth. RDC narrowed the gap to three (16-19) but eventually James Jackson sealed a 25-23 decision, winning CCAA gold. The RDC Kings won silver on their home court in front of an appreciative crowd.
Zach Albert recorded 11 kills for the Falcons. Regan Fathers led the Kings' offence with 16 kills.
Schulha credited the Falcons and their defensive play. "Fanshawe played a tremendous match, but very disappointing for sure. They turned a ton of balls around which are huge energy points - big blocks and digs that you can end up winning points on. That had a lot to do with why they built early leads," he said. "We seemed frustrated early in sets and couldn't build a rhythm. They are well coached and are undefeated for a reason. They played well when it mattered most and that's what a champion is supposed to do."
The RDC Kings looked in fine form to open nationals, easily controlling the first two matches. Then inconsistencies showed up against the Falcons. "We wanted to earn our way here. The conference championship wasn't how we wanted it to be either," said Schulha. "We knew that we were here and played two pretty good matches - two of our better ones of the season. It was disappointing to end this way and I thought at times in the third, and fourth, we showed some of that, but not consistently enough against a team of that calibre."
Fanshawe applied service pressure, totaling seven aces and 11 errors. RDC had two aces and 19 misses.
"They were bombing serves and we weren't. They have a lot of weapons and athleticism," said Schulha. "It wasn't the game plan, it was the execution piece, which is tough as a coach. We prepare them as well as we can. The execution piece wasn't quite there tonight."
Libero Isaiah Stime was named the Kings Player-of-the-Game, totaling six digs and one assist, and rose to the challenge against the tough Falcons.
David Gundrum was selected as the Falcons top performer, recording nine digs and two assists.
CCAA Medals & Awards
Gold - Fanshawe Falcons
Silver - RDC Kings
Bronze - VIU Mariners
Sebastian Lethbridge of the Fanshawe Falcons received the Exemplary Leadership Award.
CCAA Second Team All-stars
Alexis Tournier (l'Outaouais)
Nicolas Fortin (Limoilou)
Adam Turlejski (RDC)
Braydon Brouwer (VIU)
James Jackson (Fanshawe)
Kelly Woods (Keyano College)
Pic - Colby Brochu Photography
CCAA First Team All-stars
Justin Delorme (Keyano College)
Keal Prince (VIU)
Regan Fathers (RDC)
Mark DeWit (RDC)
David Gundrum (Fanshawe)
Zach Albert (Fanshawe)
Pic- Colby Brochu Photography
CCAA Championship Most Valuable Player
Sebastian Lethbridge (Fanshawe)
St. Thomas University will host the 2020 CCAA Men's Volleyball National Championship.
Pic - Colby Brochu Photography