Griffins set to visit MRU, looking to recapture form they had before semester break

Jefferson Morrow digs out a ball against MRU on Nov. 26. The Griffins will visit the Cougars this weekend (Robert Antoniuk photo).
Jefferson Morrow digs out a ball against MRU on Nov. 26. The Griffins will visit the Cougars this weekend (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Finally playing their best volleyball of the season as December rolled around, the MacEwan Griffins were quickly sent into hurry up and wait mode.

The semester break didn't exactly come at the best time.

"We were playing our best volleyball of the season heading into the break, culminating in that last Saturday against the U of A – probably our most complete effort of the year," said Griffins men's volleyball head coach Brad Poplawski of a Dec. 4 effort against Alberta when they pushed the U SPORTS No. 2, losing by just a combined nine points in a 3-0 defeat. "So, we're trying to recapture some of that.

"Obviously, we didn't get the result, but it's unfortunate the break came at not the best time."

It will have been 48 days since the Griffins men's volleyball team last played when they finally get back on the court this weekend to face the Mount Royal Cougars in Calgary on Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m., both Canada West TV presented by Co-op).

It's not like they've had to relearn how to play volleyball, but there has been plenty of rust to knock off.

"When you have a break like that you have to manage guys' workload and capacity with guys in and out of the lineup," said Poplawski. "I think we've done the best we could and guys are really working hard. I think they came back from the break in good shape, so it's now just that 6 on 6 and remembering how to play with each other.

"I'm definitely seeing glimpses in training of the stuff we're trying to accomplish."

They will have a winning template to lean on heading to MRU this weekend. The Griffins' lone win of the campaign so far came over the Cougars back on Nov. 27 – a 3-1 triumph in the David Atkinson Gym.

"We played Mount Royal in preseason and in league, so they know a lot about us and we know a lot about them, so there's no surprises other than we might have some different guys in the lineup and they might have some different guys in the lineup due to circumstances," said Poplawski.

"Obviously, we've talked about them and watched video on them, but the big focus is just us trying to play our style of volleyball."

And the Griffins are still a work in progress, which isn't a surprise given the turnover of the roster facing them when the season began.

"I don't think we're at our finished form," said Poplawski. "We went into the year with basically no starters from the previous year – two years ago, obviously, pre-COVID. So, we're still learning to play with each other and still evolving as a team.

"We're just really trying to push that in practice and push the pace – have guys not afraid to try things and make errors," he continued. "That's focusing on the process. We know when we play well, we can compete and we can push.

"Now it's that next step, learning how to close out games and doing the same thing late in a set that we did early in a set. So I think that's part of the maturation of the team and still something we're working towards. I think if we do that, we're going to get some results this semester."