Brent Forster – RDC
Red Deer, AB – The RDC Queens showed poise against the tough Ambrose University Lions and earned a four set victory (25-16, 25-22, 16-25 and 32-30), picking up a pair of match victories over the weekend.
The opening set featured several impressive rallies and defensive plays from both teams. The Ambrose University Lions roared out to a 5-2 lead in the first set. Inspired by back-to-back service aces from McKenna Olson and kills from Jade Van Dyke on the left side, the Queens went on a 14-2 run (16-7) to take command. The Lions tried to claw back into contention with a 6-3 run of their own. That stretch consisted of a stuff block from Willow Lewington and kill from Jeena Johner which brought Ambrose within six (19-13). The RDC Queens kept the pressure on, sealing a 25-16 victory.
Jade Van Dyke (13) Colby Brochu Photography
The second set was tight until Jade Van Dyke went to work. The Bachelor of Science Nursing student continued her excellent play from Friday and pounded another ball from the left to give the Queens a 7-5 edge. Then, a pair of kills from Emma Holmes pushed RDC up by three (12-9). The Lions stood tall and knotted the set 13-13 with a right side point from Mikayla Beisal. Ambrose gained some momentum and went up 19-16 with strong net presence on the right but the Queens didn't give in. Strong defensive play from Queens' libero Kaylee Domoney helped RDC rally, and McKenna Olson finalized a 25-22 win.
Kaylee Domoney (3) Colby Brochu Photography
Ambrose had a strong start to the third set. From the right, Ashleigh Wolensky provided the Lions an early four point margin (7-3). When the Queens trailed by seven (14-7), Nicole Davis was substituted onto the floor and that move immediately paid dividends for Head Coach Chris Wandler. The second-year middle blocker from Calgary picked up a point on the very next series. Despite Erin Neufeldt providing a spark on the left for RDC, the Ambrose offence picked up the pace. Willow Lewington continued her impactful play, helping the Lions park a 25-16 decision.
Emma Holmes (11) Colby Brochu Photography
An ace from Madyson Kerr gave the Lions a 6-2 lead in the fourth. After back-and-forth play, Jade Van Dyke helped the RDC Queens reduced the gap to a single point (16-17). In a battle beyond 25 points, Erin Neufeldt capped off a 32-30 victory to take the match in four sets.
In a close game against the team who will host the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Women's Volleyball Championship, the young Queens remained focused and persevered. "We had those experiences in the first half and learned from them. We were reminded of those tonight and we have been trying in training to simulate those pieces, and ironically this week we were working on finishing," says Wandler. "The Queens did a really good job. Some players came in and filled certain roles and sometimes a fresh set of legs makes a difference. It was a good win on our part."
There were many significant contributions from the RDC Queens, including from five-foot-eight outside hitter Erin Neufeldt who provided momentum for her team as the Lions tried to climb back into the match. "Willow (Lewington), their middle, blocks well and we weren't elevating quite high enough," says Wandler. "Erin is a really good jumper who swings nice and high and we used her skills. She was a fresh set of legs and we tried something which worked."
Emma Holmes was selected as the Queens Player-of-the-Game, stacking up 17 kills and 10 digs. Willow Lewington received the award for the Lions, totaling 9 kills, 6 stuff blocks and 4 digs.
Wandler has been impressed with the progression of his first-year outside hitter. "Emma is clutch. Her game doesn't change whether it is the point zero or point 32. She swung at the end which is what we need from the outsides," he says. "We talked about changing her arm angle and reaching a little bit more for it, rather than waiting for the ball to drop and that was the result."
The maturation and upward trend of the Queens is evident. "I am very proud of them. It takes time for those things to develop. Winning in five sets on the Saturday before the break against the Lions set the tone for our Christmas training," says Wandler. "Ambrose is a really good team. We were familiar with the Lions and that paid off for us. Time, reps, talking and similar situations all help us, but it's not over yet. There's a lot more learning to go."
Unfortunately, the RDC Queens will be without Sydney Rix for a while. The first-year Bachelor of Education student from Red Deer is out indefinitely with a foot injury.
With the match victory, the Queens share third in the south with the Lions (8-6). The RDC Queens have been on a roll, going 7-3 in their last 10 matches.
On Saturday, January 12, the RDC Queens (8-6) will host the Olds College Broncos (1-13) at 6:00 p.m. at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.