Preseason weekend at Mount Royal key for large group of newcomers on men's volleyball team

Jordan Peters has signed a professional contract with Danish club Nordenskov UIF Elite Volley (Eduardo Perez photo).
Jordan Peters has signed a professional contract with Danish club Nordenskov UIF Elite Volley (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Eight newcomers to the MacEwan men's volleyball program are set to get their feet wet this weekend in Calgary, seeing action against a Canada West opponent for the first time.

The Griffins will visit Mount Royal University for three Canada West non-conference contests on Friday and Saturday.

"It's a good weekend to get everyone playing," said head coach Brad Poplawski. "It's a chance for the new guys to play a university opponent.

"We've focused on a few things early in our training, but I think what this weekend will do for us is highlight some areas of strength and weakness – this is what we're good at, this is where we're lacking. I think that can really solidify our plan heading into regular season. It gives us a chance to compete early and really expose our weaknesses so we can focus what to get better on. I think sometimes in training that isn't always apparent."

That's no knock on the benefits of training; on the contrary, practices have been as competitive as ever in the history of the MacEwan men's volleyball program.

"The quality of our training has probably been the highest it's been in all my years here – just the depth of training and the physicality of the guys," said Poplawski. "It's been a really fun group to work with and our training sessions have been really competitive."

Veterans Max Vriend, Jordan Peters, David Morgan, Jonathan Mohler, Jordan Krause, Noah Johnson, Mark Alexander and Mark Ritter return to lead the way for the rookies.

"We have a lot of new guys, but I thought we brought the right veterans back – a really strong group – so I think these guys do have really strong role models," said Poplawski. "We don't have to count on them too early. There's no pressure on them."

Friday's game (6 p.m.) at MRU will be followed by Saturday matches at 12 p.m. and 7 p.m. After that, the Griffins return home to train amongst themselves until the Canada West season opener Oct. 18, back at MRU.

That's it for preseason matches – a thin schedule that Poplawski notes is by design. The squad will already be on the road for their first three weekends of the regular season, which means missing Friday's (and in some cases Thursday's) classes. Any more would put an unnecessary academic strain on the student-athletes.

"This year, due to the quality of our practices, we'll get what we need in our training environment," said Poplawski. "Academically, if we just keep adding more (preseason games) it becomes very difficult for them. I think this is a good compromise. We get what we need out of preseason. This gives them a chance to solidify some of those routines and get used to that, but also prepare well."