Brent Forster - RDC
Saturday afternoon, the RDC Kings faced the Medicine Hat College Rattlers in the final Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) volleyball match played in the RDC Main Gym and the Kings persisted in a five set victory.
In the first set, the Kings took an early lead and continued to apply pressure. A kill from Ben Holmes gave RDC an 11-8 edge. Shortly after, a kill and service ace from Hamish Hazelden pushed the Kings up 15-11. Setter Thomas Wass connected with Adam Turlejski down the middle and the Kings eventually took the set 25-15.
The second set was a battle. The Rattlers took a lead but Ben Holmes knotted the set up 10-10 with a kill from the left side. Later in the set, some strong play from the Kings at the net kept it close. Ben Hankins, Ben Holmes and Thomas Wass put up effective blocks but the Rattlers picked up a close 26-24 win.
Not much separated the two teams in the third set. They were tied 6-6 and later Ben Holmes evened the set 18-18 with a strong kill. Eventually, the Rattlers picked up a 25-22 win.
The Kings started the fourth quarter well. A kill from Parker Biletsky on the right side gave the Kings an early 4-1 lead. Shortly after, an ace from Ben Hankins and a kill from Steven Keating on the right side helped push RDC up 10-3. The Kings went on a 6-4 run which was capped off with a powerful spin serve from Adam Turlejski and RDC led 16-7. Eventually, the Kings won 25-15 to send the match to a fifth and deciding set.
In the final set, Ben Holmes gave the Kings a 2 point edge (5-3) with a kill from the left side. Later, Steven Keating put the Kings up 12-9 with a kill from the right side. A dump ball from Thomas Wass and a kill from Adam Turlejski capped of the set 15-13, and the Kings won their final home match of the regular season.
Thomas Wass was chosen as the player-of-the-game for RDC. The setter from Adelaide, Australia finished with 42 assists, 8 kills, 10 digs and 2 block assists. Alfred Dalevik received the honour for Medicine Hat College with 12 kills, 4 digs and 4 service aces.
Kings Volleyball Head Coach Aaron Schulha saw some inconsistencies but appreciated the ability to battle back. "The first set was smooth and then it was a whole lot of up and down. They rested a few of their starters and we weren't able to expose some weaknesses so that was a little bit disappointing," said Schulha. "It was nice to see us step up in the fourth set. Ben Holmes, Steven Keating, Parker Biletsky and those guys who will be back with us next year stepped up which is important."
With Briercrest College and Lethbridge College winning on Saturday, the Kings barely missed another trip to the postseason. "I believe that we are out of the playoffs according to the what my assistants relayed to me, but it's important for our players to be put in those pressure situations. Thomas Wass continues to do many good things as a first-year and I'm really excited to see what he can do with more weapons around him next year. The last three weeks to a month of the season has been a high calibre of volleyball, minus a few sets here and there," said Schulha. "It's too bad that it took that long and we didn't play as consistent enough in the middle part of the year to really give ourselves a chance. I said in the early part of the season that a good team will be left out of the playoffs and unfortunately that was us. With the run that we had, and to go to nationals each of the past seven years, to see it come to an end this way is hard. We had a whole pile of turnover and other teams that finished ahead of us were more veteran teams. There is a lot of learning for the players and coaching staff, and we will be stronger for it."
Ben Hankins completed his education and is looking to move on to his career next year. "Ben Hankins has been really good. He has continually worked his butt off and he is just a great guy," said Schulha. "He's a bright guy and is moving on to the next chapter. I am really happy for him and am really impressed with the type of person he is."
Ben Hankins will look for a teaching job next year but has fond memories of his time wearing the RDC crown. "The two national championships that we won, there's nothing like that. Losing is bitter and isn't a great note to leave the program on, but it's been an unbelievable group of guys and coaches," said Hankins. "I couldn't have asked for better coaches. This is the last volleyball game that will ever be played in this gym. Honouring the amazing athletes like Aaron Schulha and Blake Henwood who have played in this gym, it was important for us to win."
The young RDC Kings played some exciting volleyball down the stretch and will take several lessons from the season. The Kings are fortunate to have one of the top coaching staffs in the ACAC and Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). Aaron Schulha and his assistants will have the RDC Kings ready to compete for another ACAC and CCAA title in 2018 - 19.
Ben Hankins, a Bachelor of Education student from Red Deer, was presented with a picture prior to the match.
The 2017-18 recipient for the Jon Walsh Memorial Kings Volleyball Scholarship in Search of Excellence was awarded to Ben Holmes. Holmes is a second-year Bachelor of Arts Psychology student from Red Deer.