Griffins gird for second-straight U SPORTS top-10 opponent with Calgary trip to face Dinos

Ethan Nashim hits against Alberta's block during action last weekend at the David Atkinson Gym (Eduardo Perez photo).
Ethan Nashim hits against Alberta's block during action last weekend at the David Atkinson Gym (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – As they turn the page from a pair of home-opening weekend losses to the Alberta Golden Bears, the MacEwan Griffins men's volleyball team will lean on some lessons learned as they look to accelerate the process for their group.

Those would be the mental battle of facing a big block, the technique fundamentals needed to defeat it and the tactical adjustments necessary to put pressure on top teams in Canada West.

"I think when you play a really good team they expose some stuff," said MacEwan head coach Brad Poplawski, whose squad suffered back-to-back straight-sets losses Nov. 5-6 to cross-town rival Alberta – the No. 5-ranked team in U SPORTS. "It definitely gave us a better idea of the things we need to be better at.

"I don't want us to panic or think we have to reinvent the wheel, but I think we have to focus on the things we can control and just try to execute things a little bit better."

Things don't get any easier for the Griffins (0-2), who will head to Calgary this weekend to face the No. 7-ranked Dinos (2-0) on Friday (7:30 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m., both Canada West TV presented by Co-op).

Similar to the Golden Bears in that they present a physical challenge at the net, the Dinos offer a chance for MacEwan to show their progression along the learning curve early in the season.

"Big teams do big things and Calgary is no different," said Poplawski. "They have some big boys. So, it's just trying to play our style.

"(Against Alberta), we just got into a rhythm of trying to hit hard. We were really easy on their block. We swung low seam right to six. As a blocker, that's what you love. So, it's staying patient or trying to recycle or giving us another opportunity."

In that way, they will be able to embrace the mental challenge.

"If you are down a couple, you can't get it back in one swing," said Poplawski. "When it started to go bad, we weren't able to pull ourselves back in. We really let it get away from us. So, I think taking our time, slowing the game down at times (is key).

"It always starts with our first contact – the serve pass – and we have to do a better job in that respect. So, that's been a focus for us this week."