Griffins hang with physical Spartans but inconsistencies hamper their efforts in 3-0 loss

Mitchel Gorman attacked with a .600 efficiency against the Spartans on Friday (Mark Janzen photo).
Mitchel Gorman attacked with a .600 efficiency against the Spartans on Friday (Mark Janzen photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

LANGLEY, B.C. – Among the most physical teams in the country, the Trinity Western Spartans nearly dent the floor with some of their offerings from both the attack position and service line. 

The MacEwan Griffins did a pretty noble job of hanging in there against that fire on Friday night, even if it ultimately added up to a 3-0 loss (25-22, 25-17, 25-17).

"There were some good things," agreed MacEwan head coach Brad Poplawski. "They missed a lot of serves, which I think helped us stay close, but we got into some long rallies with them. 

"We talked about trying to stay patient and have our own style and rhythm. We can't play the same way they do because they're bigger than us. 

"The last two weekends have been tests against big physical teams where it's 'what things can we do well, what things can we control? Control the controllables. We can't help it if a guy hits a ball at 12 feet, but we can sure be engaged defensively behind that. 

"I thought at times we did an OK job at that."

Henry Rempel led the Spartans with a match-high 13 kills, while Cory Schoenherr had nine kills and four blocks.

Mitchel Gorman led the Griffins with six kills on a .600 hitting percentage, adding eight digs and three blocks, while Owen Johnson also had six kills and an ace.

"(Mitch) was very efficient for us offensively," said Poplawski. "Rookie Sawyer (Cousins), who was again getting another start, through two sets really held his own passing. They kind of wore him down a bit in the third, but for a first year to be out there playing against Trinity, we're hoping these are lessons he can apply for the rest of his career. 

"I thought especially for the first two-and-a-half sets, we passed really well, and I thought Alex (Lyndon) ran a really good offence. He kept guys involved. And Mitch offensively, obviously was very solid for us." 

With the result, the Griffins fall to 0-21, while the Spartans improve to 13-8.

The teams will meet again on Saturday (7 p.m. MT, Canada West TV) and the hope for the Griffins is they will adjust better to the speed of the game necessary to keep up with the more physical teams in the conference.

"For us, in volleyball, it's the block-press timing," said Poplawski. "All of a sudden, the ball's hit eight inches higher, but it's also off their hand faster, so your press needs to be earlier. Things like that. And defensively, when it does get past the block, it's just on you quicker. 

"Obviously, we can't really replicate that in training, so we just talked about getting set quicker. We're not doing the in-between things fast enough. That's where the speed of the game comes in – it's moving through your cycle of actions … so we can get to our spots quicker. It's all the in-between things is where the speed of the game is, more than just the velocity. 

"At times, we do that, but it's still a little inconsistent," he added. "Obviously, these lessons are painful to kind of just hang with a team. I don't think it's what any of us wanted from this season, but that's still where we're just behind and we aren't set quick enough."