Brent Forster - RDC
The Red Deer College Kings knew that Friday's match against the first place SAIT Trojans would be a battle, and after the Kings won the opening set a veteran Trojans team took the next three sets to claim the match.
The Trojans opened to an 8-2 lead in the first set, but the Kings battled back and tied it 12-12. Trojans Head Coach Sean McKay called a timeout but the RDC team outscored the SAIT Trojans 13-11 to earn a 25-23 victory.
In the second set, SAIT took a 4 point lead (7-3) in the early going and extended that margin to 10 points (18-8). The Trojans maintained that 10 point edge and capped off the second set 25-15.
After the third set was tied 3-3, the SAIT Trojans began to pull away an eventually won 25-12.
The Kings went up 6-4 off a Evan Parchomchuk kill in the fourth set. The Trojans went on a 21-12 run and picked up a 25-18 victory, and claimed the match.
Hamish Hazelden led the Kings with 11 kills over 4 sets.
Kings middle, Adam Turlejski, noted some inconsistencies and would like to see the RDC Kings maintain a positive demeanour when facing adversity. "We lost a little bit on our first contacts. We couldn't play consistent sideout volleyball. SAIT came out and went about their business. We were very streaky. We were struggling to put the ball away late", said Adam Turlejski. "I'd like to see first contacts and not get phased when we don't put the ball away. They will get some digs but we have to take that on the chin and keep swinging." Turlejski finished the match with 5 kills, 1 assist, 1 service ace and 2 stuff blocks.
Kings Head Coach Aaron Schulha praised the Trojans on a strong match, but is looking for more consistency from his squad. "In many ways we didn't have any business winning the first set, but to battle back showed a lot of character. So it's back to the drawing board a little bit. SAIT served the heck out of the ball and we couldn't receive it. They outserved and outpassed us. They are number one in the south for a reason," said Schulha. "It won't be easy heading into their gym but we have to figure something out. The peaks and valleys of our game are too significant. I hoped that we would be more consistent at this point. It is hard to build a rhythm but we are a young group, minus Adam Turlejski, but there's no excuse."
Schulha would like to see more student-athletes relish those high pressure game situations. "We had a really good week of practice. After losing a set to Olds, we pushed the guys hard after that," said Schulha. "With the players not being satisfied with where we were at, I was fully expecting a better effort today. SAIT executed better than us and they also outworked us. We've talked about getting mentally stronger and guys wanting to be in those high pressure situations and I don't see enough of that right now."
In the rematch on Saturday, Schulha would like to see several improvements. "I want to see more fight out of our team. SAIT will be stronger in their own gym - I am fully expecting that. We showed flashes that we can hang with a team like that. Unless we can do it consistently, especially with a team that can serve like that, they feel very little pressure from the service line and can go back and rip on it. SAIT had 15 aces and only 17 service errors, so it's hard to beat a team like that," said Schulha. "We need to be able to put a steady fight together and do a better job of siding out. We don't want to get outworked. We need to execute better, serve better, pass better - a little bit of everything. We need more guys other than Adam Turlejski who want the ball when it really matters. I don't see enough of that but we are still learning."
Thomas Wass was named the player-of-the-game for the RDC Kings while Spencer Coulter was chosen for the SAIT Trojans. Wass, a first-year setter from Adelaide, Australia, contributed 1 kill, 11 assists and 4 digs for the Kings. Coulter finished with 12 kills, 2 assists, 6 service aces and 5 digs.
The RDC Kings (9-6) will compete against the SAIT Trojans (13-2) Saturday, January 13 at 8:00 p.m. in Calgary. The Trojans lead the south with 26 points. Briercrest College sits in second spot with 20 points while the Kings, Rattlers and Kodiaks share third place with 18 points.