Ontario product Weber learning new position as she leads Griffins into weekend series vs. MRU

Carly Weber has switched to the left side this season after predominantly playing middle her entire career (Robert Antoniuk photo).
Carly Weber has switched to the left side this season after predominantly playing middle her entire career (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – A pair of You Tube recruiting videos exist for Carly Weber, who is shown both in Ontario club and high school play relentlessly raining kills down on her competition, many plastering the floor untouched.

It's no wonder MacEwan Griffins head coach Ken Briggs took notice and travelled to Calgary to meet her during U17 nationals a few years ago. That initial meet and greet planted a seed that eventually led to Weber moving from Mount Albert, Ont. to Edmonton to join the Griffins in 2016.

"I had no idea what MacEwan was," said Weber about the first meeting. "But he told me it was Can West, and my club coach used to play Can West, so (there was a connection) and I came out here. It seemed like a cool opportunity."

The rest is history as Weber is now transitioning from fresh-faced rookie into Canada West veteran. That's not the only change for the Science student-athlete. In 2018-19, she's been tasked with learning a new position, making the move from the middle to left side.

"It's been a work in progress and she's certainly had great moments," said Briggs. "Obviously, she's been given the opportunity to play because of our injuries to Lauren (Holmes) and Janna (Ogle), so it's been trial under fire.

"She's basically had to learn a whole new game being a passer and defender. It's not just been the attack portion of her program, she's had to go out and do everything."

Weber will be the first to tell you she's had her ups and downs in learning a position that requires passing skills and more nuanced kill attempts.

Amid the growing pains have been some gems, such a 14-kill effort on Dec. 1 that led the Griffins a key 3-1 win over Winnipeg in their final match of the first semester.

"It's definitely been a huge transition because I played middle my whole life. It's not just since I've been here," Weber explained. "So, definitely playing in the back row is a huge change for me and something I haven't had to do before.

"It's been a lot of fun, though, and tough at times. Other than that, I'm having a lot of fun being on the court more and being able to contribute in a bigger way."

In her club recruiting video, Weber is seen blasting kills from the left side, so she does have some experience there. Further to that, she played beach volleyball at a high level (Team Ontario in 2015 and as a member of Team Canada during U19 qualifications), so there is a history of versatility for her to lean on.

"Carly's beach training has certainly come into play," Briggs noted. "She's played nationally and internationally in high school when she was in Ontario. That has given her some context because as a beach player you have to do everything. So, that's helped considerably. She has passed and defended before.

"But her biggest learning curve is learning to be part of a system," he continued. "You have a defensive system of six players and as a middle, you're a blocker but you don't get to play much back row. Now she has to be out there all the time, learning a new spot in each rotation. It's a little bit different.

"The offensive portion of the program now is different; for a middle it's just go. It's always a first tempo fast set. Now she has time and has to create shots. That's been the toughest for her is being patient on offence."

In 14 matches this season, Weber has 79 kills and 92 digs, fourth on the Griffins in both categories. Her 25 service aces is second-best on the team – ("This year I'm focusing on picking spots on the court and following the game plan," she said).

Weber wants to do even more as the Griffins aim to lock up a playoff spot for the first time since joining Canada West.

"I definitely need to make sure I'm scoring more this semester and contributing more points to the team," she said.

Her contributions will be key this weekend as the Griffins (8-6) host the Mount Royal University Cougars (7-9) on Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m., both in David Atkinson Gym). It's a crucial series to both teams' playoff fortunes.

MacEwan has beaten MRU in all three exhibition meetings they've had against each other in 2018-19 (3-1 on Sept. 15, 3-2 on Oct. 12 and 3-1 on Dec. 30). But now it counts in the standings.

"We're very similar," said Briggs. "They're just a little more experienced on the outside now that we've moved people around out there. It's going to be a very even match.

"It's like every weekend in Canada West – it's going to be the team that makes the least amount of errors. Right now, that's our biggest focus. Other than that, they're a good team. They beat UBC, too, the weekend before – they split that weekend at home. So, I'm hoping home court continues to be a lucky charm for us. We're comfortable here and I think that's a bonus coming into this weekend."