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Volleyball gold will breed success for Rustler Athletics

Since their gold medals at Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) and Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) the Lakeland Rustlers women’s volleyball team has been the talk of campus, and beyond.

However, many people are still trying to wrap their heart around their emotions. One is head coach Austin Dyer who keeps repeating, “It’s the best.” He’s the first to admit he doesn’t know any other way to describe his feelings since those monumental wins.

Those emotions have spilled into the city and outlying areas. They’ve also tugged at the heartstrings of alumnus Aaron Rawlake, Class of 1997 and four-year men’s volleyball Rustler. Rawlake emceed a celebration ceremony at the Lloydminster campus in early April.

“It’s phenomenal,” says Rawlake. His history with Lakeland includes three seasons, from 1998 to 2001, as the women’s volleyball coach and six years as the college’s athletic supervisor from 2007-13. “This will signal a huge transition from competitiveness to absolute contention every year.”

Aaron Rawlake at microphoneThe Rustlers defeated nationally ranked teams, including the ACAC northern division leader Grande Prairie Wolves, when they won Lakeland’s first provincial league gold in February. They did the same at the CCAAs in British Columbia. In the semi-finals they soundly defeated the Vancouver Island University., the 2016 champs and the nation’s top ranked team, in three straight sets.

In the final they faced the host Camosun College Chargers. The Rustlers came out strong to lead 2-0 before dropping the third set and rallying from trailing by 6 to comeback to take set 27-25 and the match in four.

The gold was the second national medal for the team, and Lakeland only two national medals. In 2013, the Rustlers won silver when they hosted the national championships.

“When you’re at the top of the heap, everyone wants to play for you. It’s huge and it’s going to signal a significant change in how Austin recruits and it’ll spill over to the rest of the teams,” says Rawlake. “When prospects see success, their mindset changes as to where they want to play. It’ll cause a mindset change for the coaching staff and the department across the board.”

Since their 2013 silvers at provincials and nationals, the women’s team has been a strong contender within the ACAC. They posted two reputable 36-point seasons and a 32-point season. Since joining Lakeland as head coach for the 2008-09 season, Dyer has amassed a match win/loss record of 110-62, which includes 382 games won with 252 losses.

“Watching him grow from a young wild coach to a guy who is now in complete control of his emotions has been phenomenal,” says Rawlake. He adds Dyer has always been a good tactician with excellent preparation.

Rawlake also sees the calmness Dyer brings to the team. His attitude and demeanour have influenced the entire team. The veteran coach is no longer easily rattled, and neither are his players.

“That is a sign of true leadership and growth in him as a coach,” says Rawlake.

“To see what Austin has done for the program and Lakeland, I am so proud of him. Watching how he operates, how he treats the team, how he treats people around the program, I couldn’t wish for a better guy to have more success.”

Photos: Aaron Rawlake was the emcee for a campus celebration of the women's volleyball gold medal success. Below, the team presented a framed jersey, gold medal and photos to Darrel Howell, board chair and president Alice Wainwright Stewart at the special celebration. It will hang in the Lloydminster campus Allen Markin room with a similar representation from the 2013 national silver medal.

Aprl 21, 2017

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