Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Quick to deflect praise to her teammates, setter Kylie Schubert is at the heart of the team success the MacEwan Griffins women's volleyball squad is experiencing this season.
Running a diverse offensive attack that constantly keeps opponents on their toes, Schubert has the team on pace to secure the program's first Canada West playoff berth.
The Griffins bring a 9-5 record into matches against the 6-6 UBC Thunderbirds on Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m., David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).
"We've got some incredible attackers, so it makes my job super easy," said Schubert, who is fifth in the conference with 9.40 assists per set. "We get to be creative with where we're putting people. That makes my job really fun, too."
It's been a terrific week for the third-year setter, who last Friday tied the school record for most assists in a Canada West match when she recorded 53 in a four-set win over Saskatchewan. Then, on Tuesday, she was named the Canada West female first star of the week.
On Wednesday came the landmark honour: Schubert became the first Griffins student-athlete to earn a U SPORTS athlete of the week in either gender.
"Her development over the last two years has been terrific," said head coach Ken Briggs. "She not only brings a real winning attitude, she's a leader by inspiration, not just with the history of her knee, but the girl absolutely takes all the responsibility. It's her job to fix the ball and make it better and she takes that to heart to the point where (we say) 'you've done the best you can with what you were given.'
"She's very hard on herself, but that's developed for her, too. She's learned how to move on. Her focus right now – and at this level it's perfect – is it's all tactical now. She doesn't get all caught up in it as much now. It's all about 'have I set the right set, have I given somebody a chance?' – all the things a setter's responsible for."
Briggs alluded to Schubert's knee story, which is a remarkable tale of how she overcame two-and-a-half ACL tears to return to the court during the 2017-18 season.
Read the full story here from November 2017, but the Coles notes version: she initially hurt her knee playing soccer in 2014, blew it out again four months after reconstruction while attempting to play volleyball and then partially tore it again in her first game with the Griffins in October 2016.
"It was definitely tough, but one thing I was never doubtful of was my need to come back and play," said Schubert in the 2017 article. "That was always a motivation."
What she's been able to accomplish since is a major reason why the Griffins knocked on the door of a playoff spot last season and have been an elite team in Canada West in 2019-20. The chemistry she's developed with veteran middles Mckenna Stevenson and Haley Gilfillan, as well as fifth-year outsides Hailey Cornelis and Lauren Holmes has given the Griffins their most balanced attack they've ever had.
"I'm out there with all my best friends," said Schubert. "We know what each other are doing, so that makes it a lot easier. We know how to interact with each other and how to communicate with each other, which makes the actual physical performance come out. It's been really fun to be able to work with my friends all this time."
Added Briggs: "It helps to have those experienced hitters, but what she's doing is enjoying the opportunity to use all of her tools – to use all of her hitters in different formations and different situations. Obviously, she knows that she has two middles who are second to none. That really sets up everything. All of our system is based on what a team does against them and that's really helped everyone evolve here."
MacEwan will need all of their forte against a UBC team that has retooled this season but remains a tough test every time out.
"For me personally, they're one of my favourites, always," said Briggs. "Doug Reimer is one of the best coaches in Canada. They're always challenging. They always have the top athletes. We've always had good battles with them, either at the War Memorial or here.
"We're pretty excited about playing them because we saw them early September, so it will be interesting to watch them now. They didn't play yet this semester, so you're kind of basing (scouting) on what happened over a month ago. You never know what they'll come up with."
The Griffins are battle-tested after a tough split at fellow 9-5 squad Saskatchewan last weekend, something that Schubert feels will help them the rest of the way.
"I think it was the first point of the match on Friday and it lasted over 30 seconds," she said of facing the Huskies. "We knew right at that first point that we were going to have to compete every single point. That was really fun to see how they stepped up right away and then we matched that.
"I'm really excited for the rest of the season because we have lots of those tight matchups. Almost every weekend from now on, it's going to be a really tight match and I think we're all excited to see how we're going to compete."