Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Flash back to Nov. 30 when MacEwan was hosting Winnipeg in their second last men's volleyball match before the semester break.
With the Griffins' fortunes sagging as they were trailing 11-3 in the fourth set, head coach Brad Poplawski sent Jordan Krause into the game.
The energy lift in the entire David Atkinson Gym was palpable.
Rattling off spin serves and kills, amid a mid-set rally, Krause ultimately was the catalyst as the Griffins pulled off a 3-2 win.
"It meant a lot to be able to contribute on the floor," said the second-year Sherwood Park product. "I usually help out in practice by playing well on the B side and helping the A side perform better. But to actually contribute on the floor … was a boost to my confidence and a boost to the team.
"I'm really happy I could help contribute to that win we had that weekend."
Krause, who came out of the Team Alberta program (2015-17) and Strathcona Christian high school, has long been able to provide energy when he hits the court.
"Ever since I've been a volleyball athlete, I've been a guy who brings a lot of energy to the floor," said Krause. "I think Pops has found when I get subbed in, a lot of the momentum starts going our way.
"I've really been able to embrace that and build that into my identity as a player, so it's really helped me to perform well and help the team. That's kind of been my role lately for the boys."
His role could very well be expanding after fifth-year veteran Kai Hesthammer suffered an injury last weekend at UBC. Krause came into that match for him and is a strong possibility for the Griffins as they look for contributions from the left side moving forward.
Krause and the Griffins will host the Mount Royal University Cougars on Friday (7:30 p.m.) and Saturday (6:30 p.m., both in David Atkinson Gym).
"I think for him, it starts with training," said Poplawski. "He's been really good in practice. As a coach, when you're looking at your lineup for options, a guy who's been playing awesome in training is always going to be at the forefront of your mind.
"When things aren't going well, and you need a different look, you go to the guy who's been playing well for you in training."
Krause has been part of the B squad in practice for much of the season with a role to push MacEwan's starters. He feels their work has really helped sharpen the Griffins' competitiveness – a big reason why they've gone to five sets four times already this season.
"The amount of times we've gone to five sets (leads back to) the B side pushing the block (in practice) and making the guys work for points," he said. "That's been a big difference this year."
Training sessions this week for the Griffins have focused on competition as Poplawski aims to sharpen his players' intensity earlier in matches.
"It's important we learn to start a match hungry at 0-0," said Poplawski, whose team was their hungriest last Saturday when they won a marathon set over UBC 37-35 but couldn't sustain that intensity in falling 3-1 in the match. "We can't wait until it's 24-22 for the opponent to really dial in. So, I'm really hoping we can have that ability to compete (this weekend).
"Everything we've done this week in training is about competition – staying hungry to win a drill, win a rally. Hopefully we can bring that out more in the guys."
The 3-11 Griffins will need it. MRU enters the weekend tied for second in Canada West at 11-3. They boast player of the year candidate and Canada West kills leader Tyler Schmidt on the right side, as well as star setter Tanner Greves.
"There's no real flaws in their game," said Poplawski of the Cougars. "So, we're going to really have to do the things we always talk about – pass well, side out at a good number, hit smart, hit efficient, serve-pass.
"We can't control what Mount Royal's bringing, and we have to make sure we're aware of what they're going to do, but also play our style. And then just compete. That's a hard thing to quantify, but when you see it, you know – being hungry to win each point."
Krause aims to continue to bring the energy and another unique trait that he has for the Griffins: a spin serve. Poplawski noted it's important to mix it up between float and spin serves to try to get the opposition off their passing game.
"If you have six guys coming at you with essentially the same serve, you can get into a pretty easy passing rhythm," said Poplawski. "With Jordan, he's got a heavier spin serve. When it's on, it can create some problems for their passing lineup."
Krause spent his rookie season filling a void on the Griffins at the libero position. While that's improved his passing, it's also helped him adjust to the speed of the game at the Canada West level.
"I think the biggest jump was how hard it was to play defence when guys are hitting balls 100 kilometres an hour," he noted. "Definitely last year was quite the adjustment, but it really helped me understand the speed of the game before I could actually get into a hitting role.
"I'm definitely gracious I got to go on the court and get that passing experience. Now as a left side I can pass very well because I had that libero experience."