January 19, 2007
Muennich playing through pain
By JEFF KORENKO
Daily Herald-Tribune sportswriter
Expect Elijah Muennich to stock up on the ibuprofen and ice as the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves men's volleyball team strives to get its game in order as the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championships continue to draw near.
At the ripe old age of 24, the condition of the the third-year Wolves' offensive sparkplug's knees wouldn't exactly make a senior citizen envious.
He has played through the throbbing pain during the majority of his stint with the Wolves and after being one of two players called out by head coach Loren Jacula after the team's disappointing performance in getting swept at Red Deer College last weekend, he'll likely be munching hard on the Motrin and melting more than the usual amount of ice when the Wolves host the Mount Royal College Cougars in a pair of matches tonight and Saturday afternoon.
"If there are two players who can respond to that, it's me and Don," Muennich said of the fact that Jacula insisted he and Don MacNeill - the teams' two integral left-side hitters - have to elevate their games more than ever now that teams are beginning to key on them more.
"It's definitely a heavy role to undertake, but being a veteran on the team, I feel I can fulfil it. This weekend will be a good weekend to show that Don and I are ready to show to our teammates, coaches and fans that us Wolves are not going to quit. We are going to keep fighting."
Wonky knees and all, Muennich continues to pace the team and is fourth in the Blue Division with 211 kills. He also leads the squad and is sixth in the division in service aces with 23.
"My knees have always been a problem. Whether it's because of the impact they take or they are just weak, I don't know. It's just something I deal with.
You have to make sure you are stretched and warmed up and make sure you are taking your ibuprofen," Muennich said.
"Once you get into the game, it's easy to forget about it. But at the end of the game, you definitely feel the wrath of the knees."
Muennich shrugged off the team's enigmatic play of late - they played poorly in a road loss to the division-leading Grant MacEwan Griffins two weekends ago before earning a split and then lost two matches to the Red Deer Kings in Red Deer last weekend.
All this has come on the heels of the team probably playing its best volleyball of the season in a post-Christmas tournament in Calgary.
"I believe every team has their ups and downs and right now these last couple of weekends shave shown us that we can't stop," said the homegrown court talent. We need to keep improving. We will keep getting better and will peak come provincials."
After a pretty business-like approach this in practice this week, the Wolves come into this weekend's matches with a record of 10-8 and tied for third with the Cougars, who have played two fewer matches and have a record of 10-6.
Muennich has once again led the charge as the squad has looked to refocus on some fundamentals, Jacula said.
"(After last week's matches), I challenged him and Don ... and told them they have to start stepping up because teams are starting to focus on them more and more as we go along," Jacula said.
"That's what the great players have to deal with. Teams are focusing on them and they have to start making some adjustments and (Muennich) has been doing that.
"He plays in pain quite a bit and the guys see that and they try to step up around him.
"He's got old knees. He's an old man at 24 with volleyball knees. He is a trooper and hasn't missed any games or practices. As long as he stays healthy, he will continue to have a great year," Jacula said.