EDMONTON – Balance is the theme of the MacEwan Griffins volleyball schedules for the 2018-19 Canada West season.
No longer do the Griffins have to run a gauntlet of the nation's best on back-to-back weekends, such as they've had to do the past two years.
"It's the most balanced schedule for us since we've been in the league," said women's head coach Ken Briggs. "It's the first time in five years that there's a bit more balance in relation to previous playoff teams and non-playoff teams."
Both squads will open the season on Oct. 19-20 vs. the UBC-Okanagan Heat (David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV) and will wrap up regular season play on Feb. 15-16 at Brandon.
The schedule sets up nicely for Briggs' team, which will be looking to get off to a faster start than in 2017-18 when they suffered several close losses to go 0-12 through the first semester.
"For our returning athletes, every girl has played in this league for their career, so they know what to expect," he explained. "Nobody's scares us anymore – the intimidation factor's gone. We know it's the work and we need to turn some of those close ones in our favour."
If they can catch a playoff spot, the carrot at the end of the stick is that the U SPORTS women's volleyball nationals are in Edmonton, set for March 14-17 at the University of Alberta.
The men's nationals are set for the same time at the Université Laval in Quebec City.
The Griffins volleyball teams will travel together most weekends this season, but there is a wrinkle. With Regina folding its men's program, only the Griffins women will visit the Saskatchewan capital on Jan. 25-26, while the men get a second bye week.
Poplawski's squad will actually only play twice in January as a result (the Griffins' regular bye week is Jan. 4-5) due to Regina's absence. But overall, the schedule is a decent one for the men, who get the perennial conference powerhouses spread out (Alberta in November, UBC in January and Trinity Western in February).
"I like the way the schedule sets up as far as the balance of it," said Poplawski. "The conference schedule ties in nicely with what we're doing in non-conference. We're going to France and Spain in August and then we have the U of A tournament and we also go to UBCO for a weekend in September.
"After that we have two weeks to prepare for the season. I like our whole schedule in its entirety this year."
Without Regina in the league, it will also mean an end to the home-and-home series the Griffins traditionally enjoy against the University of Alberta.
"Due to the Regina situation we can't do the home-and-home with U of A, which I think has become a popular thing in this city," said Griffins men's head coach Brad Poplawski. "So, that's unfortunate that that can't happen because of the ratio of home and road games."
Instead, the Griffins will visit the Golden Bears and Pandas for two matches, on Nov. 9-10 (Saville Centre).
Again this season, you can watch every conference volleyball regular season and playoff game on Canada West TV – the official streaming home of Canada West. 2018-19 Canada West TV passes go on sale Thursday, June 21.