It was a golden repeat for the Rustlers women's volleyball team as it claimed its second consecutive ACAC championship in Camrose February 24.
Now the Rustlers will head to Grande Prairie for the March 7 – 10 CCAA championship to attempt to repeat as national champs. See matchups for Nationals on CCAA website.
Last year, the team was a surprise winner. This year, the Rustlers shouldered favourite expectations going into the 2018 tournament. For most of the season, the Rustlers were ranked number one in Canada.
They weren't the only nationally ranked team at the ACAC championships. Four other teams were in the top 15 rankings including the Rustlers semi-final and final opponents, respectively the Red Deer Queens and the Briercrest Clippers.
Both the Rustlers and Clippers had only lost a single match during the regular season. The Clippers credentials going into the finals were impressive. They were first in the ACAC southern conference and a solid fourth in the national rankings. They were led by 4-time ACAC player of the year Sam Zacharias and her younger sister Ashley, the 2017-18 south rookie of the year.
However, the match lacked the high drama of the semi-final. The Rustlers swept to the gold medal defeating the Clippers 25-17, 27-25, 25-18.
In the semi, the Rustlers were down 0-2 against the Queens after dropping the sets by 16-25 and 21-25. RDC is a perpetual volleyball powerhouse and was ranked seventh in the nation.
"The match-up was difficult for us," says head coach Austin Dyer. "Red Deer is a veteran team, and a big team. In the first sets, we had to figure out how to defend their style of play and make some adjustments on the offensive side."
The adjustments became a 25-22, third set and a nail-biting back-and-forth 27-25 fourth set that forced the deciding fifth set. The Rustlers controlled that game and won 15-9.
"Eventually we just wore them down and blew them out in the fifth set," says Dyer.
Dyer says the gold medal matchup favoured his Rustlers. "We were a better team than them at most positions, so we just had to execute our game plan."
The Rustlers opened the championships against the Ambrose Lions. "We came out with confidence and won the match quickly by set scores of 25-17, 25-15, and 25-9," says Dyer.
All Star Performances
"Our team is good all the way around," says Dyer. "We don't have any weak links. This weekend, Rae was our best player hands down. She ran the offence, executed the game plan and took chances with the season on the line."
He also singled out outside hitters Kuse and Becker for their defensive play. Also notable for him were Alyssa Grodin's blocks, Chelsea Steinley's offensive game in the final and Bailee Weiler's stuff blocks in the semi-final.
Quarter-final vs Ambrose College- 3- 0 (25-17, 25-18, 28-26)
- Ahnika Kuse – 10 kills, 11 digs
- Shelby Becker – 8 kills, 5 digs
- Rae Sigurdson – 23 assists
- Avery Maginel – 8 kills, 7 digs, Player of the Game
Semi-final vs Red Deer College - 3-2 (16-25, 21-25, 25-22, 28-26, 15-9)
- Kuse - 15 kills, 31 digs
- Becker – 10 kills, 15 digs, 4 aces, 4 blocks
- Bailee Weiler – 10 digs, 7 assists, 6 kills, 5 blocks, Player of the Game
Final vs Briercrest College - 3-0 (25-17, 27-25, 25-18)
- Becker – 10 kills, 10 digs, Player of the Game
- Kuse – 9 kills, 10 digs
- Alyssa Grondin – 5 blocks
- Sigurdson – 29 assists, 10 digs
See the ACAC wrap of the championships http://www.acac.ab.ca/sports/wvball/2017-18/releases/20180226racqa3
The website championship also includes all the scores and rosters http://www.acac.ab.ca/tournament/wvball/2017-18/index