This year his view is that of a transition from a veteran laden team last year which won a second national championship to a team with many new faces and only two starters returning.
“We have really quite a new group of athletes that we need to find places for and see if we can find that right culture chemistry again,” said Walton.
From a roster of 15 players on last years national champion unit he has seven players returning. They mostly played supporting roles but will now be thrust into the spotlight this season.
“Some of them have been patiently waiting and learning to get their opportunity to play and contribute more. That’s part of the process. They had to learn a little bit more along the way and now they have their opportunity to show what they’ve learned.”
One of those players is third year middle Hanna Delemonte who came to the Queens from Hunting Hills High School.
She was there for the two national titles and she views this year as familiar on one hand but a change on another.
“It’s different faces. You are working with different people. Getting used to being around different people,” she said.” It’s still the same system, the same philosophy that we’ve gone off so that would be the thing which is similar.”
She says it can be a little nerve wracking to step into the big shoes graduating players have vacated.
“We have been watching and preparing ourselves to be at this stage so I think it’s exciting that now it’s your opportunity to go and work hard to be in that position.”
Success on the court has been a big boost for the Queens program in order to recruit some quality athletes to fill those open spots, said Walton.
“Six of them have had some sort of level of volleyball beyond the high school level. We have three grade 12 grads so we’ve done very well to replace a lot of experience with some experience.”
The changing face of college rosters is part of the landscape and Walton has witnessed some years back in the mid-2000’s where the overall changing of the guard was a little more dramatic than this year.
“A lot of this times we were grabbing athletes that were right out of high school and before they had to learn how to become post-secondary players and Queens volleyball players,” he said. “This season with the six with experience they understand what it takes to train every day for the whole season so they just have to learn our culture and learn our systems.”
He hasn’t seen his charges under the pressure of an ACAC match but it doesn’t mean there isn’t any on these girls during practice.
“We’re trying a few new things with the team and experimenting with some different offence so that puts pressure on everybody to learn. Then the competition factor right now as it is pretty new and people are trying to sort out where they sit within the group has really elevated it.”
Walton feels this group is ahead of where teams in the recent past have been at this time of year which is good but he puts it into the perspective of a veteran coach.
“It’s not the time of the year that we need to be great so we still have some growth to do but we’re at a level which I think is going to be very competitive this season.”
He said the goal as always is to win a provincial title and then what happens at nationals is icing on the cake but more times than not the RDC Queens have a large target on their backs, always getting the other team’s best game each night. It’s something the coach is fine with.
“If they’re going to use us as a measuring stick then we’re willing to let you measure up to us and see how you do.”
The Queens open up at home October 16th hosting the Medicine Hat Rattlers.