Red Deer, AB – After the SAIT Trojans narrowly captured the first set (25 - 23), the RDC Kings gained momentum and won the next three sets (25 - 7, 25 - 20 and 25 - 22) to complete consecutive match victories over the defending Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Men's Volleyball Champions at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.
After the Trojans took the first set, the Kings quickly refocused and dominated the second. RDC opened on a 4 – 0 run and kept the pressure on. Regan Fathers and Adam Turlejski displayed strong blocking and an ace from Jonathan (JJ) Graham helped the Kings go ahead 19 – 5. Then, RDC outscored SAIT 6 – 2 and sealed an impressive 25 – 7 victory.
In the third, the teams were even 9 – 9 and then the Kings started to move ahead. With the help of a kill from Jonathan (JJ) Graham, RDC captured a 15 – 13 edge. The Kings kept the heat on and finalized a 25 – 20 win.
When not much separated the two teams in the fourth set, a dump ball from Thomas Wass evened it up 20 – 20. Eventually, the Kings clinched a 25 - 22 decision to lock up the match.
Kings Volleyball Head Coach Aaron Schulha thought the Kings' serve was a difference maker. "When we were looking after our serve and putting them into trouble, it was a pretty easy game for the most part. It makes it easier on our block and defence," he says. "There are still too many communication/hesitation plays on defence or on serve-receive that we need to tighten up for sure. But when we were looking after our serve, we put them in quite a bit of trouble today"
Adam Turlejski made an impact at the net. "I thought that was Adam's best blocking match of the season. He had two stuffs and seven assists, so those were pretty big numbers," says Schulha. "Kudos to him. I thought that he could have gotten the player-of-the-match as well."
The RDC Kings have been trending up the past few matches. "There's always room for improvement but beating the defending champs twice is key, especially after the way that we started," says Schulha. "To go down 0 - 3 knowing that we hope to be a contender for the national championship, there was some pressure and our guys responded well. We played fairly steady the last three matches. We are seeing signs of improvement week-to-week which is great. We are starting to speed up our offence to the left side. We will keep pounding that into our setters' heads and I think that it will look more crisp."
Several first-year players are pushing the veterans, and one local student-athlete's strong play has kept him on the floor. "Jonathan (JJ) Graham is pretty smooth for us. He's been coming off the bench every match as a serving and passing sub. He started on Saturday in Briercrest when we needed a win and he played really well," says Schulha. "He hasn't given us a reason to pull him off. So that's all you can ask from a first-year. He is a pretty consistent spin server. His ace to error ratio is pretty good."
Graham contributed 7 kills, 3 aces, 8 digs and 2 block assists.
A few talented Kings watched from the sidelines as they nursed injuries. "Paul Mennie did some damage to his thumb. Swelling was really significant but he should be back training this coming week," says Schulha. "We are waiting on a bone scan for Steven Keating. He may have a stress fracture in his shin. We are hoping for the best."
Regan Fathers was selected as the Kings Player-of-the-Game. The fifth-year right side hitter had 19 kills, 8 digs, 3 block assists, 2 assists and 2 service aces.
"We have Medicine Hat here next weekend and they're no slouch either," says Schulha. "They are always one of the top two to four teams in the south so we will have our hands full."
The RDC Kings (3 - 3) will play the Medicine Hat College Rattlers (4 - 0) at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, November 2 at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games. Then on Saturday, the Kings and Rattlers will meet at 3:00 p.m.