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Gritty, talented Manitoba libero Ross joins teammate Guenther-Hoorman on Griffins

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics


EDMONTON – The MacEwan Griffins men’s volleyball team will have plenty of that “Manitoba grit” – as head coach Brad Poplawski likes to put it – when they hit the court for the 2024-25 Canada West season next fall.

Not only do they have previously-announced outside hitter recruit Miles Guenther-Hoorman on the roster, they’ve also added his Mennonite Brethren teammate Sam Ross, Poplawski announced Wednesday.

Ross is a tenacious, gritty libero who also played with Guenther-Hoorman in club, helping the Junior Bisons win 17U nationals in 2023.

“They’re teammates and they know each other well,” said Poplawski. “That’s where I heard about Sam was from Miles, so hat tip to him. Sam sent some video, and I was really impressed. I showed it to our coaching staff. Greg (Gulash) really liked his ball control and his passing.”

And his grit will add a nice element to a Griffins men’s volleyball program beginning to build something special with an exceptional 2024-25 recruiting class.

“It’s kind of what I said about Miles, he has that Manitoba grit,” said Poplawski of a style includes being loud and tough to play against. “It’s the way they play volleyball and it’s something I really like. I told them ‘I don’t want that to change when you come here, that individuality and style. You don’t have to change to fit something here because it’s a positive way of playing.’ 

“I think having those together will be good and they bring that Manitoba style of play that I really like. I want to keep building that in them. Obviously, both have a ton of potential.”

With Griffins starting libero Daniel Hebert graduating, minutes are there for the taking at a crucial position on the court. Ross will have to earn his spot, but has the skills to play right out of the gate.

“The best way I heard it put is the libero is your captain of defence, captain of serve receive,” said Poplawski. “Sam will be able to come in and do a lot of that right away because he is comfortable sharing information. Good ball control, very good defender. 

“In their tournament that they won, he had to play left side because of some injuries, so has some versatility. Obviously, we see him as a libero.”

Ross has already met some of the Griffins players after coming to watch them play when they were in Winnipeg in January and should fit in seamlessly.

“The libero position is interesting because the better you get, the less you touch the ball,” said Poplawski. “When we play a libero that’s really good, our game plan is to never serve him. 

“How can you still impact the game? For a young libero coming in, it’s ‘can I get to that level where teams want to keep it away from me?’ 

“The next step is ‘how do I make the people around me better?’ I think Sam’s a guy with very good volleyball IQ. We’ve had some talks already about coming in with a good mindset of where he needs to go as a libero.”

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