Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – The MacEwan Griffins women's volleyball team is going from the extreme size challenge to the extreme defensive challenge.
A week after going against reigning Canada West first team all-star, 6-foot-5 Aidan Lea from UBC-Okanagan, and passing the test, the Griffins will head to Manitoba to face a team that doesn't let the ball hit the floor without a fight.
"They are the most difficult team to prepare for because they are the most unorthodox," said Griffins head coach Ken Briggs. "They use a different lineup than anybody else does, the way they set things up. It's really mentally challenging to prepare for things you don't see week-to-week.
"They're one of the best-coached teams in the league," he continued. "Ken Bentley's been around longer than anybody in Canada West. Tremendous coach, great imagination and always has great athletes. To me, they're the defensive bar for teams in our league."
The Griffins (2-0) will battle the Bisons (0-2) on Saturday (4:45 p.m. MT) and Sunday (1 p.m. MT, both on Canada West TV).
Coming into the contest after a pair of season-opening 3-1 wins over UBC-Okanagan – a team that made it to the Canada West semifinals last season – the Griffins are riding a wave of confidence they hope will continue.
"That was the biggest thing we talked about in preseason was getting off to a great start in our first three or four weeks," said Briggs. "Just seeing some kind of reward for all hard work and all the close games they've been involved in for the last two seasons (was great). That's a great way to start. You can't downplay confidence in any sport."
Now it's back to work, though, for a Bisons team that will test their resolve with great defence. The Griffins will need crisp passing to get the ball in ideal positions for hitters to get extra power on shots to defeat that.
"It's all timing and systems play and good choices by our setter," said Briggs. "Those things become really, really important. They're not going to overpower us, they're going to win through attrition and their execution of their different lineups that they have."
Offensively, the Griffins stand to have success if they can serve like they did last weekend – when they constantly put the Heat out of system – and if they can be as hungry for those clutch post-20 points as they were against UBCO.
"We were very consistent and willing to compete at the times of the game we needed to compete in," said Briggs. "We can put them in serve-receive trouble – the same kinds of things we did to UBCO. We don't have that size to deal with this weekend."