Women’s volleyball in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference has reached the point where size matters, especially in the middle.
Gone are the days when elite teams could get away with undersized middle blockers going up against taller players. Today some of the best athletes are over six-foot.
That’s where Autumn Roos fits in with the RDC Queens.
The Ponoka native is listed at six-foot-one with high-end athletic ability and smarts. She also fit in nicely with RDC head coach Talbot Walton’s recruiting philosophy.
“I’ve always believed in recruiting the top Central Alberta athletes and any time we can get this quality of a person who has the skill level to play Queens volleyball we try to recruit her,” he said. “She fills both those spots and in a position where she can develop over the next year or two.”
Roos couldn’t be happier to join the Queens.
“I always wanted to go there as it’s close to home and has a good reputation. When Talbot contacted me I said yes right away … it’s great.”
Autumn started volleyball in Grade 6 and while she played basketball as well, by the time she reached Grade 11 it was strictly volleyball.
She played provincially in the 2A program with St Augustine School and finished fourth in the provincials in Grade 10 and 11. This past season was lost because of the pandemic.
“That was disappointing for sure,” she said. “It took a year of development away. We practiced some but that’s all.”
Autumn also played club volleyball with the Ponoka Central Rage. Despite being a smaller program they were consistently in the middle of Division 1.
The 18-year-old didn’t play for the provincial team, although she attended the Team Alberta camp in Grade 9 and played for the zone in the Alberta Winter Games, also when she was in Grade 9. That was when Walton first saw her.
“I saw her at the Alberta Winter Games camp, which was run by Keith Hansen. She was someone we wanted to keep track of,” explained Walton. “We stayed in contact and eventually talked to her about where she wanted to play.”
Autumn is looking at getting into nursing at RDC, which will keep her around for the full 5 years.
“That’s always a bonus,” Walton added. “When you get a player out of a smaller school and club they sometimes get overlooked, but give them time and you get a high end person and player.”
Roos was not only solid in the middle for her school and club teams but one of their leaders.
“I enjoyed that,” she said. “The toughest parts were reading the play and reaching down and lifting up the team when we were down a bit.”
Autumn has spent some time over the years watching the Queens play, so she has an idea of what is ahead for her.
“I really enjoyed watching them and getting a chance to see what it takes to play at that level.
“I think the biggest thing will be reading the play when it comes to blocking as the game is so much quicker than high school.
“But there will be veteran players I can learn from.”
Walton says Autumn is a smart player who understands what it takes to improve.
“She’s smart enough to understand what the coaches are saying and run with those ideas and make it her own.”
Roos is one of five recruits added this year to what should be one of the best teams in the ACAC. Six-foot-one Abby Lowe of Olds also comes in in the middle.
Of the five recruits, only one is listed under six-foot.
The Queens, who won ACAC silver in 2020, will have two of the premier power hitters in the league in Tess Pearman and Jaiden Ferguson. They also added five-foot-11 Sylvan Lake native Anna Carlson, who played four years at Mount Royal University before switching to the nursing program at RDC.
Sydney Rix and McKenna Olson are expected back in the middle but they lost Ali Greenshields. Second-year setter Emma Letkeman, who was second in assists in the South Division in 2019-20, returns and will be backed up by last year’s recruit Danielle Wiens of Regina.
Second-year middle Kira Weddell and outstanding right-side hitter Emma Holmes may also be moving on. Weddell is looking to get into the veterinary program at the U of Calgary while Holmes is looking to join a U-Sport team.
“They may both be gone, we’re not sure right now,” said Walton, who will likely be missing himself because of a medical condition that has bothered him for the past several years.
“It looks like I may have another surgery in the next couple months,” he said. “I could be on the bench to help out in the late fall or winter session for sure,” he said.
Chris Wandler, who handled the team when Walton was away, will once again act as head coach.
This sports column was written by Danny Rode, a retired Red Deer Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.