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– Led by 2011-12 Most Valuable Player Ben Ball, the Trinity Western Spartans have become the first men’s volleyball team to claim four Canada West individual year-end awards.

Ball put together the best season a Canada West setter has ever had in terms of assists, averaging a CIS season-best 11.54 per set, and leading top-ranked Trinity Western to a 19-1 regular season record, good for first overall, a chance to host this weekend’s conference Final Four and an entry into CIS Nationals .

With his impressive numbers this year, Ball also moved into second all-time in career assists with 2,742. Coming off a 2010-11 season in which he was a Canada West Second Team All-Star and CIS national championship All-Star, the fifth-year native of Abbotsford, B.C., who will graduate with a major in General Studies, was the master of distribution this year as helped eight teammates to at least 1.30 kills per set, while guiding the Spartans to a Canada West-leading .318 hitting percentage and a CIS-leading 13.68 kills per set. This is his first Canada West award.

“Ben is the engine that runs our team,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “His unassuming attitude on the court and ability to find the fun in any situation make him the perfect setter for our team. His genius with the ball and athletic ability make him the most memorable setter in our program’s history.”

Voted Rookie of the Year was Regina right side hitter Andrew Nelson, who came to U of R from Campbell Collegiate and had an immediate impact for the Cougars in his first season of CIS eligibility.

Nelson picked up 21 kills in his first match as a starter and never looked back, with at least 10 kills in all but four of the 16 matches and a school-record 29 on Nov. 25. His average of 3.48 kills per set ranked sixth in Canada West this season and stands as the third highest in the U of R single-season record book. For the season, Nelson totalled 230 kills, 75 digs, 29 blocks, and 10 service aces.

“Andrew was able to provide our team with consistent offence and has improved his play greatly on the defensive side of the ball over the course of the season. We look forward to Andrew being a fantastic player for the Cougars over the next four seasons,” said University of Regina head coach Greg Barthel.

Conference Libero of the Year, Jarrod Offereins, averaged 3.12 digs per set to set the Trinity Western record for digs per set in a single season and record the sixth-highest mark for digs per set in a Canada West season.

In the process, the Communications major also set the Spartans three-set record and tied the school’s four-set record for digs when he earned a season-high 20 on Nov. 25. Offereins hit double digits in digs 13 times this year. In 58 sets played, he had just nine reception errors.

“Jarrod has been the anchor that has stabilized our team in terms of serve reception and defence,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “His constant positivity has allowed those around him to stay focused on the task at hand and not to get swept up in the emotion of the matches. He is a tireless worker, constantly striving to improve his game, yet does not lose focus that it is a game and is supposed to be fun. His ability as a serve receiver is second to none and his athletic abilities allow him to make big play after big play.”

Garnering the Canada West nomination for the CIS Dale Iwanoczko Student-Athlete Award is another TWU Spartan, Rudy Verhoeff, who receives his second straight nomination for the honour.

Verhoeff has become a model athlete at Trinity Western and, as his coach, Ben Josephson says, he “is the athlete every coach dreams about recruiting.” On the court he averaged 3.85 kills per set (4th in CW), ranked among the leaders in hitting percentage (.300), points per set (4.54) and is a First Team All-Star.

Verhoeff has been a Big Brother to a young boy who he has met weekly over the past year. He has also worked as a “mentor” to two young volleyball players in the community in a capacity similar to a Big Brother relationship. The 22-year-old Calgary native has been a part of the Student Athlete Leadership Team (SALT) at TWU that meets to plan events and both coordinate leadership opportunities amongst the teams and leadership development programs within the Athletics Department. He has also been a volunteer coach with the Fraser Valley Volleyball Club for the past five seasons. This year, he also has a 3.86 GPA.

“Rudy is supremely talented on court, disciplined in the classroom and dedicated to his community,” Josephson noted, adding. “As our team leader and captain, he has led our team in kills and points. Away from the court, Rudy conducts himself with the same passion and determination, maintaining a strong GPA while volunteering at various community service opportunities. He approaches all phases of his life with the same focussed determination to be a champion.”

Named Coach of the Year after guiding the Spartans to an impressive first-place finish is Trinity Western’s Ben Josephson.

Taking the school to its first-ever Canada West regular season title, Josephson, in his fifth year as head coach, has firmly placed the Spartans amongst the very best in the conference now and for years to come.

Following a CIS championship season in 2010-11, Josephson’s team has compiled a 31-2 record. Josephson also led the Spartans to a 1-2 record at the FIVB Club World Championship in Doha, Qatar, where they represented Canada and NORCECA.

Josephson enters the Final Four weekend with an overall record of 106-58, a Canada West record of 62-30 and a playoff record of 12-8.

“It is a great honour for Ben to be selected by his peers for this prestigious award,” said Spartans athletic director Murray Hall. “Ben has helped set the standard for coaching excellence at TWU in a number of areas under our Complete Champion Approach. He has built an excellent expert-based staff around him and recruited top student-athletes who fit the high performance and high character culture he demands.”

A number of this season’s All-Stars have received honours before, including 2011 CIS MVP Graham Vigrass (2011 CIS 1st Team) of Calgary, TWU’s Rudy Verhoeff (2011 CIS 2nd) and Ben Ball (2011 CW 2nd), along with the Bisons’ Chris Voth (2011 CW 2nd), who was also 2009 CIS Rookie of the Year.

Following is a breakdown of all individual Award winners and All-Stars:


MVP: Ben Ball, Trinity Western

Rookie of the Year: Andrew Nelson, Regina

Libero of the Year: Jarrod Offereins, Trinity Western

Dale Iwanoczko Student-Athlete Award nominee: Rudy Verhoeff, Trinity Western

Coach of the Year: Ben Josephson, Trinity Western

ALL-STARS (alphabetically by surname)

First Team Second Team

Ben Ball, Trinity Western Robert Bennett, UBC

Mitch Irvine, Alberta Steve Marshall, Trinity Western

Dane Pischke, Manitoba Jarron Mueller, Alberta

Rudy Verhoeff, Trinity Western Jonathan Sloane, Brandon

Graham Vigrass, Calgary Nate Speijer, UBC Okanagan

Chris Voth, Manitoba Geoff Zerr, Saskatchewan

Major award are now considered for national awards, to be handed out by Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) at the 2012 national championship, hosted March 2-4 in Kingston, Ont. by Queen’s University:

The Canada West Final Four event takes place this Friday and Saturday at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C., where all four have already qualified for Nationals. The Alberta Golden Bears play the Manitoba Bisons in Friday night’s early semifinal, with the host Spartans facing the defending conference champion Calgary Dinos in the late match. Bronze and gold medal matches take place on Saturday evening.