In the final game at the ACAC Men's Volleyball Championship, the Red Deer College Kings faced the Medicine Hat College Rattlers in the gold medal match. The 2 talented squads are very familiar with each other having competed in the ACAC Men's Volleyball South Division during the regular season.
The RDC Main Gym overflowed with an electric atmosphere. Fans cheered every play and point. As expected, not much separated the 2 teams in the 1st set. Around the half-way point of the opening set, the Rattlers held a slight 12-11 lead. Medicine Hat College went on a 13-9 run and picked up a 25-20 opening set victory. Ty Moorman and Regan Fathers accumulated 4 kills each for RDC. Joel Kotyk led Medicine Hat College with 5 kills.
In the early going of the 2nd set, the Rattlers held a 2 point lead (6-4) but the RDC Kings went on an 8-3 run to pull ahead 12-9. Rattlers' Head Coach Mark Porter called a time-out to halt RDC's momentum but the Kings continued to push ahead. Eventually, the RDC Kings won 25-17 to tie the match up at 1 set a piece. Luke Brisbane had 19 assists for the Kings. Cole Sanderson totalled 22 assists for the Rattlers.
The 3rd set featured some amazing digs and rallies. After the set was tied 4-4, the Kings went on a 12-7 run to pull ahead 16-11. RDC kept their 5 point lead and completed a 25-20 victory. Matthew Lofgren led the Kings with 7 digs. Brett Young, Cole Sanderson, Alfred Dalevik and Isak Helland-Hansen had 5 digs each for the Rattlers.
The Rattlers opened the 4th set 5-0 and eventually picked up a 25-17 win to send the gold medal match to a 5th and deciding set. Regan Fathers led the Kings with 18 kills. Isak Helland-Hansen had 15 kills for the Rattlers.
The 5th set was back-and-forth early. The RDC Kings took a lead in the 1st half of the final set (8-5). The Kings eventually won 15-9 to claim gold. On the final point, the RDC Main Gym erupted.
Kings Volleyball Head Coach Aaron Schulha credited the Rattlers but was proud of the victory on their home court.
"We knew that the Rattlers wouldn't go away and Helland-Hansen got hot from the service line and we couldn't side it out. The 2 right teams were in the finals I think and the fans got their money's worth," said Schulha. "There was a great crowd and we were excited to come out on top obviously. It was nice to play solid matches in front of a great crowd. It was our last chance to win gold in this gym so that was nice."
Setter, Ryan Beatson gave an inspirational talk to his team before the 5th set.
"Sometimes those speeches mean more coming from players than coaches," said Schulha. "As soon as we heard Ryan talking, we let him have the opportunity. You want these opportunities and the guys made the most of it."
Beatson energized the Kings and talked about his speech.
"We had a rough 4th set and we had to reset completely. I tried to get the guys fired up like I do before each game," said Beatson. "We said that we are not going to let them take it from us on our home court. This is our gym and nobody takes that from us."
Looking ahead, the Kings will have a balanced approach before they compete at the national tournament.
"We are close to the level that we should be at. Peaking at the right time is always a good thing," said Schulha. "There is room for improvement but we will have a mix of work and rest."
Regan Fathers was named the Kings player-of-the-game. Fathers finished with 26 kills, 3 service aces, 3 digs and 1 stuff block. Isak Helland-Hansen picked up the award for the Rattlers. Helland-Hansen finished with 16 kills, 1 assist, 3 service aces, 3 stuff blocks and 6 digs.
Diane St-Denis, RDC Athletic Director was pleased with the opportunity to host an exciting championship weekend.
"We were honoured to host this ACAC Men's Volleyball Championship, which showcased tremendous volleyball all weekend," said St-Denis. "The RDC Main Gym was at capacity for 2 nights and we were overflowing with people for the gold medal game so some fans had to watch the match on a TV. RDC is very excited for future opportunities to host events in our new facility where we will be able to connect with even more fans to share these high-level competitions."
Both ACAC teams qualify for the CCAA Men's National Volleyball Championship March 9-11 in London, Ontario.
ACAC Men's Volleyball Championship First Team All-Stars
Tristan Simmonds - Grande Prairie Wolves
Jakub Zdybek -Keyano College Huskies
Trent Mounter - SAIT
Luke Brisbane - RDC
Isak Helland-Hansen - Medicine Hat College
Joel Kotyk - Medicine Hat College
Michael Sumner - RDC
Most Valuable Player - Regan Fathers - RDC