Rustlers on top of the mountain

The Lakeland College Rustlers defeated the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves in four sets, 25-20, 25-20, 15-25, 25-13 in the gold-medal game at the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference Women's Volleyball Championship at Lakeland College on Saturday evening.


"I don't even know what to say," Rustlers head coach Austin Dyer said following the wild post-game celebration. "With our core group of players we've been talking about once they got to their fourth and fifth years this was what was going to happen. It's happening a year earlier than we thought. They way that we played this weekend was unbelievable. We rolled throughout the whole weekend."


Rustlers libero Laura Popplestone has been through the ups and downs with this team, having lost out on a ACAC gold medal and a national championship in 2013. There has been a lifetime's worth of emotional roller coaster riders for the Brandon, Man. native.


"This feeling is unbelievable," said Popplestone, the tournament MVP. "I'm honoured to get the tournament MVP but that's not me, that's my team. They got us to the final."


And the fifth-year senior is glad she decided to come back for her final year, even though it took her until November to make that decision.


"I'm so happy to come back, but just playing with these girls one last time was the reason I came back," Popplestone said. "This is just icing on the cake. I've been here for five years but this is something (the team) has been trying to accomplish for years before that."


After defeating the Briercrest Clippers in the first game of the eight-team championship, the Rustlers then went on to beat the Ambrose Lions in the second round, ending up in the gold-medal game against a north division opponent in the Wolves.


The Rustlers are new at the championship game experience having now participated in two of them in the team's history. Prior to winning on Saturday night they were in the penultimate game in the 2012-13 season, losing to the NAIT Ooks in five sets.


The two seed Wolves started out the tournament beating the SAIT Trojans in the first round before defeating the Red Deer Queens in the round two.


The Wolves are no strangers to having success in this tournament format having won four silver medals and one bronze since the 2010-11 season. They have medaled the last four seasons. The last time they won ACAC gold was in the 2004-05 season.


Megan Koch had 16 kills for the Wolves while Rustlers outside Ahnika Kuse was credited with 14 of the team's 39 kills. Shelby Becker chipped in with 19 kills of her own.


The player of the game for the Wolves was Koch and the player of the game for the was Kuse.