The 2018-2019 season is now over for the Lakeland Rustlers women's volleyball team, and while the team fell short of their ultimate goal, the team still captured another ACAC medal, the third in as many years.
The team came out strong to start the season, going 8-0, winning 24 of their first 26 sets. The strong start earned the Rustlers the #2 spot in the CCAA Women's Volleyball National Rankings. The first big test of the season for Lakeland was November 16th and 17th when they faced the undefeated King's University Eagles.
In the battle of the undefeated, it would be the Rustlers who would come out on top, as they defeated the Eagles in 5 sets on the first night of the back to back. In the rematch Saturday night, the Eagles would have the Rustlers number, handing the Rustlers their first loss of the season.
The Rustlers would win their final two games of the first semester, giving them an 11-1 match record and 34-8 set record heading into the second semester.
After a quick Christmas and semester break, the Rustlers would return to the court to for league play January 3, on the road in Camrose to face the University of Alberta – Augustana Vikings. The Rustlers would split the weekend series with the Vikings.
Following the loss to the Vikings, the Rustlers would win 6 straight matches before the second semester matchup with the Eagles. The teams would once again split the weekend series, with the Rustlers winning Friday night to extend their win streak to 7 matches, and the Eagles responding Saturday night defeating the Rustlers.
The Rustlers were locked into the 2nd seed in the ACAC North Division heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Facing the NAIT Ooks on the road Friday, the Rustlers would rest several starting players, ultimately dropping the match to the Ooks. The Rustlers would be back to full strength Saturday night, playing their final home game of the season and honoring fifth-year players Ahnika Kuse, Rae Sigurdson and Shelby Becker.
The Rustlers finished the regular season with a 20-4 match record and 64-22 set record, earning them the 2nd seed in the ACAC North Division heading into playoffs and a first-round matchup with the #3 seed in the South Division, the Ambrose Lions.
The ACAC Women's Volleyball Championships were held from February 21-23 at Ambrose University in Calgary. In their quarter-final matchup against the host Lions, the Rustlers would have a long, tough, 5 set battle, before coming out on top 3-2 (23-25, 25-20, 24-26, 25-20, 16-14).
Following their quarter-final win, the Rustlers would face the #1 seed in the South Division, the Briercrest Clippers, with a trip to the ACAC Championship game and CCAA Volleyball Championships on the line. The semi-final would be another long battle for the Rustlers, with the match once again going to 5 sets. Unfortunately, the Rustlers ran out of gas in the end, losing the match 3-2 (28-26, 24-26, 25-17, 23-25, 9-15). The semi-final loss would mean that the Rustlers would not have a chance to three-peat as ACAC Champions or get the opportunity to go to the CCAA Volleyball Championships.
The Rustlers would bounce back on Saturday in the bronze medal match following Friday's disappointing loss. The Rustlers would defeat the University of Alberta – Augustana Vikings in 4 sets (25-17, 25-11, 20-25, 25-19), winning the bronze medal, and 3rd ACAC medal for the team in the past 3 years. Following the bronze medal match, Rustlers fifth-year outside hitter Ahnika Kuse was named to the ACAC Women's Volleyball Championships tournament all-star team.
Becker played in 23 matches and 83 sets for the Rustlers this season, while amassing 242 kills and 245 digs, averaging 2.92 kills and 2.95 digs per set. Becker's 2.92 kills per set placed her 6th in the ACAC, while her 0.335 hitting percentage was good for 5th.
Sigurdson played in 23 matches and 83 sets this season. Over the season, Sigurdson accumulated 810 assists, averaging 9.76 per set, leading the ACAC. Sigurdson also totaled 115 digs on the season, averaging 1.39 per set. In addition to being named to the ACAC Women's Volleyball All-Conference team, Sigurdson was also selected as the ACAC Women's Volleyball Player of the Year.
Despite the bronze medal finish to cap off the season, the 2018-2019 season was still one of success for the Rustlers. Although the medal earned was not the color they had hoped for, this team, particularly 5th years Becker, Kuse, and Sigurdson, have been one, if not the most successful teams in the ACAC and CCAA over the past three years.
Head coach Austin Dyer had the following to say about his team following the season.
"This was a season where our squad had very high expectations coming into the year," Dyer said. "Led by our three fifth-year athletes, we battled all season. At the conference championships, we played our hearts out, winning the quarter-final in 5 sets, losing the semi-final in 5 sets and winning the bronze medal in 4 sets. I am very proud of how the team bounced back to win the bronze medal after a devastating loss the previous day in the semi-final."
When speaking about next year, it will be a "turning of the pages," Dyer said, "as our three 5th years from this season graduate, but we have a lot of great young talent that are eager to get on the floor. With the culture that has been built within our program, we will expect to compete to the best of our ability and compete for an ACAC Championship.