– Simply one of the most exciting players in the entire CIS, 2011-12 Canada West women’s basketball MVP Joanna Zalesiak, a 5-7 guard from Poland, runs the point for a Regina Cougars offence that averaged 84.2 points per game during the conference schedule, a total which stands as the third-highest in conference history.

Zalesiak led the conference with 117 assists, averaging just under six per game. She also led the team in steals (57), minutes played and was second on the Cougars with 137 rebounds.

Though she has a year of CIS eligibility remaining, Zalesiak is expected to end her U of R career after this season as she has completed the academic requirements for her Bachelor of Sport & Recreation Studies degree. Zalesiak will end her time as a Cougar ranked 10th in school history, with 931 points, despite playing just three seasons.

“Joanna’s ability to push the ball in transition and attack the defence was instrumental in helping us go 20-0 during conference play. Her work ethic is second to none and she gladly decreased her scoring average this year to help make us better as a team, noted Cougars head coach Dave Taylor. “She makes everyone around her better.”

Making a big impression in her first season in the CIS, Saskatchewan Huskies forward Dalyce Emmerson has been selected Rookie of the Year after receiving the maximum votes possible from coaches around the conference.

Standing at 6-3, Emmerson, who was also named a Second Team All-Star, turned heads this season leading the CIS with 10.5 rebounds per game. The Prince Albert, Sask. native is also a threat to score averaging 13.4 points per game. Emmerson recorded a conference-best 11 double-doubles and was one of just two players in the country to average double-digits in both rebounding and scoring.

“Dalyce has had one of the most outstanding rookie seasons of anyone that I have seen in the Canada West in my 14 seasons,” said Huskies head coach Lisa Thomaidis. “She has shown exceptional progress over the course of the season due to her intelligence and coachability. We are beyond excited to see what is next for Dalyce.”

For the third straight season, Saskatchewan Huskies guard Katie Miyazaki is the Defensive Player of the Year.

Helping the CIS #3-ranked Huskies to a 10 game winning streak and a 17-5 conference record, the Graduate Studies student finished the season in the top 10 in three statistical categories. A threat to score, rebound and steal, the fifth-year Richmond, B.C., native led the Huskies and sat fourth in the conference, averaging 15.2 points per game. Miyazaki, also a First team All-Star, was fourth in rebounding, nabbing 142 boards and seventh in assists, with 76. She also helped the Huskies hold opponents to averaging just 62.5 points per game and 38 steals.

“Katie epitomizes the adage that great players make those around them better,” said Lisa Thomaidis. “Unselfish almost to a fault, Katie has been a huge reason why our young team has overachieved this season. She has simply made everyone around her a better player. She is a difference-maker at both ends of the floor – something few athletes have the ability to do. She’s had a tremendous year.”

Nominated as Canada West representative for the prestigious CIS Tracy MacLeod Award that rewards determination, perseverance and unwavering spirit is Nicole Wierks of the Fraser Valley Cascades.

In her third year and now injury-free, the Chilliwack, B.C. product’s final years of high school and first two years at UFV were riddled with numerous injuries that severely challenged her resolve. After tearing her ACL, getting a dislocated shoulder and having her appendix removed during high school, she began her Cascades career with a second ruptured ACL and, to this day, continues to wear a brace to stabilize her knee.

In addition, she has been plagued with chronic shoulder issues. Her most recent setback came at the end of the 2010-11 season when she suffered a stress fracture in her foot prior to the playoffs and spent months rehabilitating in the off-season.

The 2011-12 season was her first healthy campaign since Grade 10. The Science student started every game, averaging 29 minutes and finished among the Canada West leaders in points (10.6 ppg), rebounds (5.9 rpg) and steals (2.1 spg), helping UFV to a 12-6 record. The Cascades have now moved through the quarter-finals and into this weekend’s Final Four.

“Nicole’s perseverance is an inspiration to our entire program. Faced with the real possibility of ending her career really before it got started, she has found ways through hard work, persistence, and consultation with many experts overcoming her knee and shoulder issues,” commented Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer. “Her attitude in overcoming challenges is an inspiration to all of us.”

Nominated for the CIS Sylvia Sweeney Award as top student-athlete, second all-time Lethbridge Pronghorns leading scorer Lauren Taal put a cap on her successful post-secondary career this season, but the footprint she has left behind impacted far beyond the confines of 1st Choice Savings Centre. In addition to her basketball prowess and academic responsibilities, Taal has been a fixture in the southern Alberta community.

Along with volunteer coaching with numerous local schools and the Jr. Horns program, Taal has been involved in a variety of non-basketball activities as a donor for Canadian Blood services, participant in the network Christmas campaign for Southern Alberta Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), Elementary Literacy program and a canvasser for both the Heart and Stroke and Canadian Diabetes programs.

“Lauren is a special person, she is very passionate about basketball and attributes a lot of her life lessons to what she learns on the court,” said Sandy Slavin, Executive Director Pronghorn Athletics. “She takes great pleasure in working with young girls and encouraging them to grow through basketball. She has been a tremendous mentor to young women in the community and a terrific representative of Pronghorn Athletics.”

Coach of the Year, six-year Cougars head coach Dave Taylor, led Regina to its first undefeated conference season as they went 20-0 in the Canada West conference season.

The Cougars, 32-1 overall, including last weekend’s two-game sweep over Winnipeg in the quarter-finals, have been ranked #1 in every CIS Top 10 poll this season.

Taylor ranks second in the school’s all-time record book in both conference coaching wins (99) and post-season victories (20). He becomes the first Cougars bench boss to be named the Canada West women’s basketball Coach of the Year since the U of R joined the conference in 2001-02.

“Dave’s success is directly attributable to his exceptional work ethic and his commitment to excellence in every aspect of the Cougar women’s basketball program.” said University of Regina Athletics Director, Dick White.

Among this season’s All-Stars who have were previously selected to the all-conference roster are the Cougars’ Zalesiak (2011 CIS 2nd Team, 2010 CW 2nd)) and Lindsay Ledingham (2011 CW 2nd), Zara Huntley of UBC (2011 CW 2nd). Former Canada West Rookie of the Year and Tracy MacLeod finalist Nicole Clarke from Alberta also make the All-Star list.

Following is a list of 2011-12 Canada West women’s basketball Award winners & All-Stars:



MVP: Joanna Zalesiak, Regina

Rookie of the Year: Dalyce Emmerson, Saskatchewan

Defensive Player of the Year: Katie Miyazaki, Saskatchewan

Tracy MacLeod Award nominee: Nicole Wierks, Fraser Valley

Sylvia Sweeney Award nominee: Lauren Taal, Lethbridge

Coach of the Year: Dave Taylor, Regina