Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Although participation is much smaller than in previous years, the annual preseason lid-lifter for the MacEwan women's volleyball team – this weekend's Griffins-Pandas Invitational – will still carry the same weight.
For the MacEwan Griffins, it's an excellent early opportunity to test where they're at more than a month before the season starts.
They'll host the cross-town rival Alberta Pandas on Thursday night (7 p.m.) and then the Calgary Dinos on Saturday (3 p.m., both games David Atkinson Gym). Calgary and Alberta will also meet during the three-team soiree on Friday (6 p.m., Saville Centre).
"The tournament's a little smaller than it has been in the last five years," said head coach Ken Briggs. "It will just be those two and then training in the mornings (with all three teams).
With both the Pandas and Dinos being among the top programs in Canada West, Briggs is excited for the test and how it can sharpen his squad.
"It shows us where we're at," he said. "U of A just got back from Japan. They trained for two weeks at the end of August, so they're going to be a little ahead of things, but that's not the (focus). We just need to play. We're looking forward to the opportunity to see where we're at."
The informal, but official non-conference, matches are free to spectators and the North bleachers will be out, but game day functions will be minimal.
Briggs says the opportunity to play matches at this point of the process – more than a month before the Oct. 18 season opener – is great for veterans and rookies alike.
"You're less than two weeks into the season," he said. "You've had anywhere from 5-10 practices. At this level, you need to play.
"You have your veterans who know what's going on, but they need to get back into their rhythm. It's like preseason in any sport. Then, the new people, it's an opportunity to see what level we're at and get exposed to that speed and how dynamic the athletes are."
MacEwan will head to Kamloops, B.C. on Sept. 27-29 for a non-conference tournament in their final opportunity to tune up before visiting Mount Royal University on Oct. 18-19 to kick off the 2019-20 Canada West campaign.