Aussie setter Lyndon latest international recruit to join MacEwan out of the ACAC

Sydney, Australia setter Alexander Lyndon leads the Griffins with 263 assists in 10 matches so far (Eduardo Perez photo).
Sydney, Australia setter Alexander Lyndon leads the Griffins with 263 assists in 10 matches so far (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – The e-mails come in often and from everywhere.

Potential volleyball recruits from Europe and Australia send queries to Canadian university and college coaches, hoping to catch their eye.

Sorting through them all and trying to get a proper scouting read based on some videos can be daunting and inaccurate.

So, the MacEwan Griffins have had greater success recruiting international players out of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.

Case and point in recent seasons: Norwegian Kai Hesthammer (Lethbridge), Pole Kornel Kowalewski (Keyano) and Aussie David Morgan (Grande Prairie).

Setter Alexander Lyndon is Griffins head coach Brad Poplawski's latest recruit in that pipeline, coming to MacEwan from the SAIT Trojans via Sydney, Australia.

"We have a lot of guys come to the ACAC first and it does help because you can see them in person," said Poplawski. "We get so many e-mails from these athletes all over the world. But video's just video and it's hard to actually tell if they're actually 6-6, are they really touching 11-8?' It can be really tough unless a guy's an absolute standout, so having the ACAC where they can develop for a year or two, you can see them play and you can meet them does help us."

Lyndon has taken the next step in his development by earning the starting setter role with the Griffins at a higher level in Canada West.

He leads MacEwan into a weekend series vs. cross-town rival Alberta on Friday (7:30 p.m.) and Saturday (6:30 p.m., both David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).  

"It's a big step up and it's exciting," said Lyndon of going from the ACAC to Canada West. "We get to play against a lot of really quality opponents. You see guys in U SPORTS go on to the Olympics and to play professionally, so this really is the best level available in Canada. It's a challenge, but one I'm really enjoying so far."

Lyndon leads the Griffins with 263 assists in 10 matches in 2021-22.

"Technically, he's very sound," said Poplawski. "He thinks the game really well. He's got good size. He's a lefty, which can be an advantage as a setter.

"I think he's come in this year and done some really good things for us. Like anyone, there's a step up coming from the ACAC. There's a lot to learn and there's a lot we can work with him on. But we have that progression. I'm not trying to throw too much at him too fast.

"He's a guy who loves volleyball, loves being around the games, wants extra reps, wants to touch the ball," he added. "So, it's fun to work with a guy like that who wants to improve and wants to work."

Alexander Lyndon is gaining a rapport with MacEwan's attackers, many of whom also came into the program at the same time as him (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Playing for the Australian youth team and finishing high school in Sydney, Lyndon had two options to further his volleyball career: turn pro or pursue an education in North America.

"If you want to play good volleyball after high school, you have to leave Australia basically," he said.

So, he was one of the young men sending out e-mails. He received a solid response from then-SAIT bench boss Sean McKay (who is now at the University of Saskatchewan).

"He had a couple of Australians there over the last five years," said Lyndon. "So, I was e-mailing him and sending him film. I spent two years there. When that opportunity came up to make the leap into U SPORTS, I jumped at it. That was always the goal from the beginning."

At MacEwan, he's had an opportunity to reunite with fellow Aussie Jefferson Morrow, with whom he's trained in Australia previously.

"It's definitely good to have other Aussies around," he said. "We go through the same experience of the cold and being on the other side of the pond."

There's no doubt, Lyndon's acclimated to Canada now, both outside and on the court. Since every player besides Morrow is in the starting lineup for the first time this season, Lyndon is learning and growing alongside everyone else.

They're basically building together from the ground floor.

"I think that's important," said Poplawski. "You see the teams that have been together for a while and they just know how to play together. The passers work well together, the middle-setter connection, the setter relationship to the outsides – it is something really important.

"I'd put Mason (Natras) in there, too. Having two setters who are going to grow with the program I think is a really big thing for me. It's not like we're trying to airlift somebody in for one or two years. These guys will be a part of the program going forward, hopefully, and they will build with the attackers and have that setter-hitter relationship."

There's also a strong setter-setter relationship between the two, who each bring something different to the court.

"Mason's a really good player," said Lyndon. "We bring a lot of the same things to the team but also have a little bit of a different style, too. It's good to have that competition. We push each other and make everyone else better, which is always good to have on a team."

Slowly, but surely, Poplawski is adding more to their plate as they gain experience.

"I think as the year's gone on, we've been able to do a little bit more," he said. "Over the next couple of years, we have a plan to keep working towards getting to that higher level.

"I think Alex and Mason work pretty well in training together. They push each other. When Alex was hurt, Mason came in and played really well. So, I think for quality of training, they both give us a good training environment where they're working hard and competing."