Graduating senior Cronin's valuable leadership has been a boon to the Griffins

Zoe Cronin, left, has 481 career digs for the Griffins - the fourth most in MacEwan's Canada West history (Chris Piggott photo).
Zoe Cronin, left, has 481 career digs for the Griffins - the fourth most in MacEwan's Canada West history (Chris Piggott photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – The temperature change will be dramatic when Zoe Cronin's parents visit her this weekend for the first time since she started her Canada West women's volleyball career with the MacEwan Griffins in 2015.

Kevin and Monique are travelling from New Zealand, which has seen temperatures as high as 37 C, into the deep freeze that is Edmonton at the moment.

"I warned them of the extreme cold temperatures," said Cronin. "They struggle with zero degrees, let alone minus-30. It's record temperatures in New Zealand right now, so they are coming to the extreme opposite."

Coming back from a concussion, Cronin hopes she will be able to play, but there is a chance she will be on the bench instead when the Griffins host the Trinity Western Spartans on Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m., David Atkinson Gym). The weekend represents the final two home regular season games of the graduating senior's career.

"For me, if I do not play, I think I have to be content," she said. "You don't want to leave the program on a negative note. If I was busy wondering what if or why can't I play, etc., I think that would turn into turmoil, rather than remembering all the good times I had here.

"Come the day, I'm sure there will be tears because I am competitive and I do want to play and I will be envious of the people on the court," she added. "But I'm also proud of the people on the court and I'm humbled I have been privileged to be able to play and start for the majority of my five years playing competitive volleyball in Canada."

Cronin has made lifelong memories playing libero for the Griffins the past four seasons as the first international player in the Griffins' Canada West era. She'll never forget her first Canada West match during the 2015-16 season.

"In my first year, I had never played indoor before and I was meant to just be a defensive specialist first year and then Karlie (Edgar), our starting libero, went down and I was just kind of thrown to the wolves as Ken (Briggs) likes to say," she said. "That memory of getting on the court in my first CIS game … I mean, I was terrified. I think I still am every time I step out on the court in my fifth year, but it's a memory I'll never forget and also performing really well. That's something I was really proud of."

Heading into the weekend, Cronin has 481 career digs, fourth-best in MacEwan's Canada West history.

"Zoe's the heart and soul of the team," said Griffins head coach Ken Briggs. "Off the court, she's the one who takes care of everybody. She's the one (with the pulse) on what's going on. She's so conscientious, she works extremely hard in her program."

Cronin will graduate with a Communications Studies degree this spring and has a bright future ahead of her. She interned in the Global TV sports department last year and aims for a career in sports journalism here or back in New Zealand.

"The dream goal was to be a sports reporter at the Olympics, but after working at Global and realizing sports journalism is such a niche market … the prospects are definitely diminishing, which is a definitely a harsh reality when you're coming out of university and looking for something full-term," she said.

Wherever she ends up career-wise, Cronin's time with the Griffins women's volleyball team will be remembered for her contributions on the court and leadership off it.

"She's always had a big role on the team," said Briggs. "This has grown to be a full-time job. She's done really well with the exception of just pushing herself a little bit too hard, I think. When she's on the court, she's an emotional leader, she tries to keep stability on the court. She can be a comfort playing next to her.

"Her legacy will be just the girl loves this university, loves our program," he added. "Her and I have bonded over my appreciation for the All Blacks, which is so important to the New Zealand culture.

"She's just an amazing person. She's the kind of player you want to know for the rest of your life. You want to know what happens to them, you want to watch them raise their families."

Cronin's fifth-year leadership has been big to a Griffins team that is battling for its playoff lives. At 9-11, they're tied for the eighth-and-final post-season spot with Mount Royal University, but the Cougars hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

After this weekend's series against U SPORTS No. 2 Trinity Western (18-2), the Griffins close out the campaign at Brandon (4-18). MRU has remaining matches against Calgary (16-4) this weekend and Saskatchewan (8-12), who are also in the hunt. The Huskies will go against seventh-place Thompson Rivers University (10-10) this weekend. TRU will finish up against UBCO (2-18).