Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
-with files from TWU Athletics
EDMONTON – The scoresheet has a similar result – a 3-0 win for the Trinity Western Spartans over the MacEwan Griffins men's volleyball team.
But Saturday's loss felt a whole lot better than Friday's straight-sets defeat for MacEwan Griffins men's volleyball head coach Brad Poplawski. He saw some progress, despite the 25-15, 25-18, 25-18 setback to the defending U SPORTS champions.
"Like I said yesterday, we struggled in certain areas," he said. "I thought, especially our passing, was quite a bit better tonight and gave us an opportunity to compete. That's what I wanted from today.
"Like I said going into the weekend, I wanted us to be better Saturday night than we were on Thursday and I think we absolutely were."
Jefferson Morrow led the Griffins' attack with nine kills, while Jonathan Mohler had 24 assists and five digs in the loss. Max Vriend had eight kills and just one attacking error to go with three blocks.
At times, the Griffins competed with the Spartans, but not enough to take a set off of a team that has nine players who either recently played for Team Canada's senior men's national team, B team or junior national squad.
"Again, we know what a great team they are and all the things they can do," said Poplawski. "They just come after you in waves. It's 7-7 in the third set and all of a sudden, it's 13-7 and it just feels like you blinked because they just put so much pressure.
"It's the best serving team I've ever seen at the U SPORTS level. They have guys who just hammer the ball and they don't miss a lot. They do a really good job of putting pressure. But I thought our passers did a better job of stabilizing today and cutting their runs to one or two instead of 3, 4, 5 and that's what you have to do in this game."
First-year Mathias Elser contributed 35 assists and five digs to guide TWU's offence, while second-year Brodie Hofer had a game-high 10 kills for TWU in the win. Fellow second-year Jesse Elser had a team-high 12 points, including nine kills, two aces, two blocks and six digs.
The Spartans improved to 5-1 on the season, while the Griffins overall record fell to 1-3.
Poplawski singled out veteran Mark Ritter as being a key for the Griffins on Saturday, stepping into the libero role with starter David Morgan injured. He helped stabilize MacEwan's passing with a strong game.
"That was nice to see," said Poplawski. "He's been in our program a long time – our last remaining ACAC guy. To have him rebound and be a leader tonight, it was nice to see. I thought he was quite good for us."
The Griffins hit the road again next weekend when they visit Calgary on Nov. 8-9.
"We're definitely a better team right now than we were heading here this weekend and I think that's what we wanted to get out of this weekend, take some stuff going into our season going forward, heading to Calgary next weekend and beyond," said Poplawski.