Poplawski has had a successful first year coaching. -griffins athletics/the griff
Kris Kinash – sports editor
The MacEwan University’s men’s volleyball team will be heading into the playoffs in seventh place in the ACAC, after getting bumped out of sixth place by the NAIT Ooks earlier this month. Regardless of their position going in, the Griffins head coach, Brad Poplawski has done a good job with his team in his inaugural year as MacEwan’s head coach.
Going into the first round of the playoffs, the rookie head coach isn’t a rookie to pressure-packed situations; Poplawski was an assistant coach for the University of Alberta Golden Bears during 2008 and 2009 when they won back-to-back national championship titles, and also an assistant to Canada’s junior national team in 2010 and 2011.
“I was so lucky I was able to work with two amazing coaches at the U of A, as far as coaching role models go,” Poplawski reflected on his time at the University of Alberta. “I’m so lucky to have Terry Danyluk; he was my mentor coach when I was doing my masters . . . I was able to work day in and day out for the past four years and in the past two summers with the national team. That was another great learning experience – working hand-in-hand with great coaches and great athletes.”
The Griffins had a slow start to the season but were able to find their stride as they transitioned into the second half of the semester, going 5-1 over a six game span, until losing two heartbreaking matches to NAIT to close out their season. Poplawski credited his team’s hard work ethic for the successful regular season and couldn’t be happier with the adjustments his players had to make with implementing a new system.
“We have a good group. I have 15 guys that come to practice every single day and really really work hard for me and want to learn,” praised Poplawski. “They’ve really bought into my system — I’ve done some things differently than they are used to in the past, offensively and defensively. But there was no skepticism, there was no apprehension on their part; they really bought into it and kind of made the system their own.”
The Griffins will host the first game of a best-of-three match playoff series at MacEwan’s City Centre Campus Gym tonight at 8 p.m. against the King’s University College Eagles. Even though MacEwan swept both matches against King’s three games to zero, Poplawski has made sure his team doesn’t look past the first series of playoff games.
“I think our team is just so focused on this upcoming week that we haven’t really thought about the implications of what this week means. We all know what’s at stake and what’s on the line here — a birth in the provincials,” said Poplawski. “We’re just going to take it one game at a time and not worry about the big picture. We always say if you take care of the little things, the big things take care of themselves.”