Trojans shade Kings in close five set battle

Ben Holmes (10) and Ben Hankins (12) played prominent roles in the five set victory at RDC. Photo - Tony Hansen
Ben Holmes (10) and Ben Hankins (12) played prominent roles in the five set victory at RDC. Photo - Tony Hansen

Brent Forster - RDC

In a weekend rematch, the RDC Volleyball Kings faced the SAIT Trojans at Red Deer College, and the match came down to the wire. After the Trojans took an early two set lead, the Kings won the next two and forced a fifth and deciding set. SAIT won 15-13 and picked up the match victory. 

SAIT jumped out to an early lead but a kill by Steven Keating pulled the Kings within a point (3-4) in the first set. The Trojans went on a 14-5 run to go up 18-8. Trojans outside hitter Trent Mounter was effective and SAIT eventually won 25-13.

In the second set, a stuff block by Adam Turlejski knotted the set up 10-10. The middle from Melbourne, Australia was effective picking up kills and blocks. The Trojans went on a 15-8 run to take the set 25-18.

In the third set, a kill by Justin Lukacs tied it 3-3 and later a service ace by Mark DeWit pushed the Kings up 13-11. The RDC Kings outscored the SAIT Trojans 12-9 and earned a 25-20 win.

The Kings took an early lead in the fourth set and a service ace by Thomas Wass gave RDC a 6 point lead (16-10). The Kings eventually won 25-23 and tied the match at 2 sets apiece.

Not much separated the two teams in the fifth set. An ace by Justin Lukacs gave the Kings a 6-5 lead. The fans were treated to some great plays and eventually the Trojans narrowly won 15-13. 

Thomas Wass was named the player-of-the-game for the RDC Kings while Trent Mounter received the honour for the SAIT Trojans. Wass, a first-year Open Studies student from Adelaide, Australia, finished with 7 kills, 16 assists, 2 service aces, 7 digs and 2 stuff blocks. Mounter totaled 19 kills, 2 assists and 6 digs. 

Aaron Schulha, head coach of the Kings, didn't like the start but appreciated the willingness to battle back. "We were pretty awful for the first two and a half sets. We had some veterans out there who looked like they didn't really want to be there which is the unfortunate part. It's a big learning curve for a lot of our younger guys," said Schulha. "SAIT is a very good team and a veteran laden group. They have the same starting group as last year and it shows in tight matches. It was a great battle back and we showed some character but we are not as good of a finishing team as the Trojans are right now."

Schulha liked the contributions from his bench. "Our bench did a good job and there were some good things over the past two matches," said Schulha. "SAIT is at the top of the South Division for a reason but there are still too many question marks on our side." Coming off the bench, Parker Biletsky stacked up 4 kills, 1 service ace, 1 dig and 1 stuff block. Jacob Rapin accumulated 1 kill, 24 assists and 7 digs. Ben Hankins picked up 4 kills in a single set. 

In the second half of the season, the head coach would like to see some improvement. "One pretty good team in the south will miss the playoffs and we have a lot of things to work on. We need to play more aggressive volleyball in general, especially with our out of system attack," said Schulha. "Our defence looks disconnected at times. Our outside hitting efficiency has to be more productive in general. We may need to change the mental game so that more guys want the ball when it matters." 

The Kings will face some tough competition over the break in non-conference play. "We are scheduled to go to Vancouver on December 27. Douglas College is hosting a tournament that has some PACWEST (Pacific Western Athletic Association) teams, some ACAC (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference) teams and we'll play four PACWEST teams including Camosun who is hosting nationals, if we clean it up in the second half and work ourselves into that spot," said Schulha. "Limoilou is coming from Quebec who we played in the national finals the past few years. Some of the better teams from across the country will be there and it's a good opportunity to see how we measure up. Hopefully by that time we will have Hamish Hazelden and everyone healthy, and we can solidify our lineup."

In the next ACAC Men's Volleyball conference match, the RDC Kings (7-5) will compete against the Olds College Broncos (0-11) on Friday, January 5, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. in Olds. The Kings share third spot in the ACAC Men's Volleyball South Division with the Lethbridge College Kodiaks and the Briercrest College Clippers. All three teams have 14 points. The SAIT Trojans (10-2) sit in top spot with 20 points and the Medicine Hat College Rattlers (9-3) place second with 18 points.