Sylvan Lake residents will have the chance to see some of volleyball’s best in action when the Red Deer College (RDC) Queens take on Hokusho University of Japan at HJ Cody School on Sunday (Dec. 14).
The match is being played as part of a long-standing partnership between the two institutions dating back to the 1980s. With admission proceeds going toward the HJ Cody School athletics program, it will be part of a positive day all around, according to Queens head coach Talbot Walton.
“HJ Cody has been very friendly to RDC Queens volleyball in the past,” he said. “We’ve had quite a few athletes that have come through HJ Cody and end up playing for the Queens.”
The match, he added, will act as something of a thank you to the school for contributing to the Queens’ success over the years — and that’s something that hasn’t been in short supply.
The team is currently sitting with a CCAA (Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association) number-one ranking, and will head into the second half of the season with just one loss in 12 matches played.
HJ Cody alumni Alex Donaghy and Olivia Barnes are part of the Queens’ current roster, while Shelby Bramall is part of the team’s coaching staff.
The match between the two institutions has been played several times in the past, alternating between Canada and Japan.
Walton said the exchange has always proved immensely challenging for his players, who have travelled to Japan four times under his own management. But it’s also been beneficial in more ways than imaginable, he feels.
“From our standpoint, it’s an opportunity for student athletes to go on a trip to Japan, which is sort of the birth place of modern volleyball, to see just what it would be like to play against similar-aged athletes,” he said. “It has turned out to be one of the most beneficial and rewarding things that I’ve seen my student athletes go through.”
Ensuring the Japanese student athletes get the very most out of their trip to Canada is important for Walton. Having the match played in Sylvan Lake, he feels, will help accomplish that.
“We have yet to make our way out towards Sylvan Lake in any of the previous trips,” he said. “Sylvan Lake obviously in the summertime would be a pretty neat place for them to see, but I still think they can get a sense of what the town is about.”
Having ice cream at the Big Moo was among the activities planned for the Japanese team, he added.
Walton said he’s anticipating another tough match for his Queens in Sylvan Lake, and concedes they haven’t had much luck against their Japanese opponents in recent years.
For him, however, the match is about much more than winning and losing.
“Physically, we are much bigger, but they just have a unique style — they’re very good at passing and defending and keeping the ball off the floor,” he said. “They play a style that we’re not trying to exactly (replicate), but there are definitely some underlying philosophies that really benefit in the ACAC (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference, in which the Queens compete), so getting to see that firsthand and experience it should hopefully set us up for a good strong second half.”
A skills clinic for HJ Cody’s own volleyball teams is being put on by HJ Cody athletics director Jason Chatwood, and will precede the match on Sunday (Dec. 14).
The clinic will begin around 1:30 p.m., with the match following at 3:30 p.m. Admission will be charged at $5 per person, with all proceeds going toward the HJ Cody School athletics program.