Gritty effort pushes Queens over Trojans in five sets

Erin Neufeldt (6) Pic - Colby Brochu Photography
Erin Neufeldt (6) Pic - Colby Brochu Photography

Brent Forster – RDC

Red Deer, AB – The RDC Queens came into Friday's match trailing the SAIT Trojans in the standings, but after a hard fought five set victory (25-22, 24-26, 27-25, 20-25 and 17-15), the Queens drew even with not only the Trojans, but the Ambrose University Lions as well. All three teams share second spot in the south with 26 points. However, the Trojans have two games in hand. 

In the first set, the SAIT Trojans opened 6-1 which was assisted by service pressure from Hayli Hinchey. The Queens didn't relent. With some strong serving from setter Natalie Bloemen and effective offence from Emma Holmes on the right, the RDC Queens went on a 9-2 run (10-8) to pull ahead. Trojans Head Coach Art O'Dwyer called timeout when his side trailed by four (13-17), hoping to sway momentum but the Queens took the set 25-22.

"It was pretty choppy in the first set and we called our first timeout," says Head Coach Chris Wandler. "We talked about the need to possess the ball and control our side. I thought we did that moving into set two."

In a back-and-forth start to the second, Shaelynne Roux provided SAIT an 8-7 edge with a kill from the right. Then minutes later, a dump ball from Natalie Bloemen handcuffed the Trojans' defenders to even the score 18-18. Eventually, SAIT shaded the Queens 26-24.

An ace from Alexandria Greenshields pushed RDC up by a point (7-6) in the third. When not much separated the two sides, Hayli Hinchey kept SAIT within one (19-20) with a point from the right. The Queens outscored the Trojans 7-6, sealing a 27-25 victory.

Ali Greenshields (14) Colby Brochy Photography

With Veronica Headley at the service line, the Trojans took a seven point lead (17-10) in the fourth, which was the largest of the match by either side. The Queens tried to chip away at the deficit but the Trojans capped off a 25-20 decision.

From the middle, Alexandria Greenshields gave the Queens a quick 4-1 lead in the fifth set. With a string of serves from Shaelynne Roux, SAIT pulled even (5-5). Despite the Queens trailing late, they dug in and won 17-15. Erin Neufeldt played with energy and was a positive factor all match for RDC.

"We have been playing that gritty style of volleyball for a while now and not worrying about our opponent," says Wandler. "We were very calm, cool and collected and that shows a lot of growth."

Outside hitter Britt Davis was proud of the team's persistence and cohesion. "Today was a hard fought match. There were a lot of ups and downs but we were able to come together and play well in the end," she says. "We found spots to hit and were passing – everything just came together. The connection was there."

Davis, a third-year, was recognized after the match as a graduating student-athlete. "It is sad to leave but I am excited to go play at the University of Regina and continue my journey," she says. "Winning bronze at provincials two years in a row has been a huge memory. We are all a family."

Britt Davis (7) with the Queens coaching staff Colby Brochu Photography

Wandler has appreciated the team-centred philosophy from Davis. "Britt is a consummate teammate. She always looks after others and her best interests are with her teammates," he says. "She had a really good start to the season, got injured but she never got impatient. She had an opportunity to get back into the lineup and does whatever the team needs."

Erin Neufeldt was named the Queens Player-of-the-Game, accumulating 18 kills, seven digs, three stuffs, two assists and one ace.  Shaelynne Roux was selected for the Trojans, totaling 13 kills, nine digs, three stuff blocks and two aces.  

"Erin continues to grow and can hit the ball a ton but her passing is why she is on the floor," says Wandler. "Her 18 kills tonight in five sets against her old team must be gratifying. I was happy for her."

On Saturday at 6:00 p.m., the RDC Queens (13-8) will face the SAIT Trojans (13-6) in Calgary.

Jade Van Dyke was presented with the 2018-19 John Walsh Memorial Scholarship in Search of Excellence for the RDC Queens after the match.

Chris Wandler and Jade Van Dyke (13) Colby Brochu Photography