Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Two years ago, it wasn't clear if Janna Ogle would play volleyball again after undergoing a major shoulder surgery to address years of wear on the socket.
On Friday night, though, a warrior who battled through doubts, pain and rehab, and emerged on the other side with an indeterminate will to compete again, will hit the court for a Canada West women's volleyball regular season game 1,006 days after her last one.
The former Calgary Dino will lead her new team, the MacEwan Griffins, into their home-opening weekend against UBC-Okanagan on Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m., both in David Atkinson Gym).
"I don't think she ever thought she would come back, but she really did a nice job in the two years she was away in terms of working with a personal trainer, staying in shape and building her shoulder back up," said MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs. "The ONE League really got her thinking again."
That's a volleyball premier league based out of Calgary and Toronto that Ogle played in over the summer. It was there that the Edmontonian – who played three Canada West seasons for the Dinos (2013-16) before needing shoulder surgery (which she had in September 2016) – got a taste for high-level volleyball again.
"After I was done, I was like 'OK, I actually miss volleyball, maybe it's time to go back,' " explained Ogle.
"It's actually been a pretty smooth transition."
Briggs heard the 6-foot hard-hitting left-hander was aiming to get back into Canada West and come home. He had a great opportunity to offer her, given that the Griffins graduated four players from last season – including MacEwan all-time career kills leader Cassidy Kinsella.
Someone needs to step into that production and Ogle certainly has the chops to do that. She was one of, if not the, top recruit in Edmonton coming out of high school at Ross Sheppard in 2013.
"She's got a really good volleyball mind," said Briggs. "She understands the game really well. Even being away for that length of time – she's right back into it. We're giving her a much bigger role than she probably had in her three years at U of C.
"She's doing a really good job physically. Then mentally her experience really helps her with shot decisions. She's learning, too. You've got to treat her like she's going into her fourth year, so there's lots of things that we're working on. But she's been so positive since she's started this experience."
Janna Ogle has already showed signs in preseason that she'll be a big factor for the Griffins in 2018-19 (Chris Piggott photo).
Ogle was nearly a member of Canada's junior national team in her youth, but it wasn't meant to be.
"I got chosen to play for the junior national team when I was 17 and then I dislocated my shoulder right before," she said. "On top of that, I actually forgot to bring my passport to Manitoba. They bring the people who were selected from the National Team Challenge Cup to the junior national team and I dislocated my shoulder and forgot my passport and the coach was like 'yeah, you've been selected.'
"I was like 'great. I can't do it.' So, I couldn't go, which sucked. But it's all right, I needed to rehab myself."
That positivity in the face of disappointment has already endeared her to her new coach and team.
"She's beyond any expectation I had, both as a person and a volleyball player," said Briggs. "She is a bright light for us. She's positive about everything, doesn't let the little stuff get to her."
As the Griffins hit the court for a new season, there's no reason to think they can't be competitive for a playoff spot, despite what the Canada West coaches poll says (predicting them to finish 12th out of 13 teams). The Griffins have been competitive with every one of their preseason opponents, beating this weekend's opponent UBCO in four sets at a Kamloops tournament last month.
With Ogle joining veterans Lauren Holmes and Hailey Cornelis on the outside, and the squad returning dominant middles Haley Gilfillan and McKenna Stevenson – among many other new and returning pieces – the Griffins will be tough to play against every time out.
"We're very optimistic," said Briggs. "We know how tough our league is. We finally have what I think is a fair schedule. I think that makes a big difference. Our first three weekends are going to tell the tale. We're in a battle for a playoff spot right from the first weekend, which is always exciting in our league.
"We know our limitations, but we also know our strengths. One of the focuses this preseason has been we're focusing and building on our strengths. That's the biggest thing. Quit trying to be better at everything. We need to do what we do well."