Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – With the high level of competition in the Canada West men's volleyball ranks, every weekend is like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.
So, after the MacEwan Griffins lost twice on the road against U SPORTS No. 1 Trinity Western, they pick themselves up and head straight to Calgary to face the Dinos, who hold a No. 14 ranking in the country.
MacEwan (1-3) will visit the Dinos (3-1) on Friday (7: 30 p.m.) and Saturday (5:30 p.m., both games on Canada West TV presented by Co-op).
"A very skilled team," said MacEwan head coach Brad Poplawski. "They've gone with two different lineups the last couple of weekends. They beat a good Sask team and then split with Thompson Rivers coming off the bye. It gives me as a coach two different looks to prepare for."
One includes some power with 6-foot-8 Aussie Hamish Hazelden, while another lineup focuses more on ball control – presenting a challenge in the variety that the Griffins will need to be prepared for.
"They're just a really athletic team," said Poplawski. "All their outsides jump really well, their middles are quick, so we'll definitely want to apply some service pressure. And some of the things we were working on last weekend at Trinity hopefully can carry over into this weekend."
MacEwan won't again face the level of serving that Trinity Western threw at them last weekend, but the learning that happened going against spin serve after spin serve in Langley, B.C. can help them moving forward.
"I don't even know if our serve machine goes as fast as they were serving," said Poplawski. "I know one of their guys is up to 113 km/h. Calgary's a bit different depending on the lineup. Right now, they only have one spin serve and four floats. So, kind of a different look.
"I think what we're looking for passing doesn't change between a spin and a float – reading with our eyes, moving our feet and setting our platform, whether it's a 100km/h spin serve, or 60km/h float serve," he expounded. "Those things are the same. I thought the first night against Trinity, part of it is we're not used to seeing serves like that. The second night we did a lot better job with our passing, so I'm hoping that's something we can bring into Calgary."
As always, the game of elite volleyball comes down to serve and serve-receive.
"Their gym is different, it's a big gym, so there are different air currents, but the quicker we can get used to it and pass the ball … when we're in system we run the ball pretty well," said Poplawski. "We've got to make sure we're giving ourselves the opportunity."