Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Passports? Check.
Volleyball gear? Check.
The MacEwan men's volleyball team is off on an adventure starting Monday that they will long remember: an eight-day tour of Spain and France, which includes exhibition matches against four professional club programs.
The Griffins will spend Aug. 20-29 overseas as they get a fresh perspective on the sport before their non-conference schedule kicks off with a Sept. 20-22 tournament at the University of Alberta.
"The level of play should be quite high," said Griffins head coach Brad Poplawski. "We start the year playing some really good teams right off the bat.
"We don't know what to expect from their level. I'm expecting it to be quite high, so for us it's a good test. It's a chance for us to compete really early in the year."
MacEwan will meet Barcelona, Spain club teams AE Aula (Aug. 22) and CN Sabadell (Aug. 24) before travelling to Montpellier, France to meet club teams Narbonne (Aug. 27) and Gignac (Aug. 28).
"I've been lucky enough to travel with Team Canada, so I know any time I've had an international experience, you learn so much and not just about volleyball," said Poplawski. "For our guys to get the opportunity to travel abroad (is huge).
"They'll play a different style of volleyball in Spain than France even, so I'm hoping the guys can see the different ways of playing the sport. There's cultural differences, obviously. There's a lot of stuff we're excited about."
Any road trip early in the season is beneficial, as well, to building team camaraderie, especially for a Griffins team that will feature several new faces this season.
"The bonding aspect of it is huge," said Poplawski. "We have six new guys, so it gets the new guys in the group right away."
Beyond the competitions, the opportunity for European sightseeing adventures through the tour company they're travelling with adds some icing to the cake. From historical sites to classic architecture to seaside towns, the Griffins players and coaches will have plenty of options for cultural experiences.
"I hope this is one of those things were the guys, 20 years from now, still have that memory," said Poplawski. "We're hoping to build this into our program where every couple of years we can do something like this."
Follow along on Instagram at griffinsvolleyball.