T-Birds make up majority of first Volleyball BC Hall of Fame class


VANCOUVER – The influence of the UBC Thunderbirds on the sport of volleyball in this province has been recognized with the selection of two former players, a former coach and a historic team to the Volleyball BC Hall of Fame’s inaugural class of inductees.

Erminia Russo Thorpe (athlete), Mike Rockwell (builder), Sandy Silver (builder), and the 2009-10 women’s volleyball team are all inductees who will represent UBC at the Hall of Fame and Excellence Awards Banquet on Saturday, January 10, 2015 at the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown in Burnaby. They’ll be joined fellow nominees Vale Savege (official), Hugh Wong (builder), and James Clive (builder), who frequently helps out the UBC men’s volleyball team at its practices.

Russo Thorpe played three years for UBC and eventually returned to serve as head coach for three more.
She was a three-time Canada West All-Star and was the first T-Bird to earn CIS All-Canadian status twice. Russo Thorpe was an outstanding player at every position on the court for UBC and is considered one of the best all-around players this country has ever produced.
Russo Thorpe spent a total of eight years on the national team, and played at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, where Canada tied for ninth. She played professional indoor volleyball in France during the 1990s and was also a member of the international pro beach circuit during the latter part of that decade. It was also at this time when Russo Thorpe embarked on a successful coaching career.
She coached at Western University for two seasons before coming back to UBC in 1996 to serve as an assistant to Doug Reimer. When he went to head up the women’s national team, Russo Thorpe was named as his replacement and guided UBC to two Canada West titles and two CIS championship medals.
She was honoured as Canada West and CIS Coach of the Year and the CIAU Coach of the Year in 1998. In 2007, Russo Thorpe was inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame.
Rockwell has influenced the game in this country in many ways. He played on the 1966-67 UBC team that captured the first-ever CIS men’s volleyball championship and became the first volleyball team to represent Canada at the World Student Games, which were in Tokyo, Japan. Following that experience, the UBC team embraced the Asian system of speed and finesse and brought it back to North America, revolutionizing how the game was played and viewed in Canada.
The Thunderbirds team also captured the Western Canadian senior men’s championship and the national junior title.
Rockwell was part of Canada’s national team program from 1967 to 1972 and wore the maple leaf at two more World Student Games (1969 and 1971).
He went on to become a coach who excelled at all levels, leading teams at the high school and club level in B.C., as well at McGill University and UBC, where he headed the varsity team for the 1978-79 season. Rockwell also served as an assistant coach with the national women’s team program.
“Mike Rockwell has reached the highest levels of certification for officiating in both indoor and beach volleyball, an extremely rare accomplishment,” read his Volleyball BC Hall of Fame citation.
Rockwell has officiated international FIVB, NORCECA, and Pacific Rim indoor competitions, as well as international beach matches with the FIVB and Pan American Games. He remains one of only a handful of referees in the world with both indoor and outdoor designations at the highest level.
From 1989-1994, Rockwell served as a member of the Volleyball Canada Board of Officials and the Chairman of the National Officials Committee. He also owns a Life Membership to the Volleyball Canada Officials’ Committee.
Silver represents a lifetime of dedication to the sport. She was the head coach of UBC women’s volleyball from 1979 to 1984 and led the T-Birds to bronze at the 1983 CIS national tournament. During that time, she also served two years (1980-82) as an assistant coach with the Canadian women’s national team. Silver was also head coach at York University in Toronto. Since 1992, Silver has been the Canada West volleyball convenor. She has also officiated volleyball at a high level earned her officiating certification for volleyball.
Silver has been a mentor for female volleyball coaches at all level across Canada. Every year, her contributions to volleyball are recognized in numerous ways. For the past 10 years, UBC awarded a Sandy Silver scholarship to deserving players while the Ontario Volleyball Association hands out the Sandy Silver Female Coach of the Year Award to an outstanding female coach for her success and contribution to the development of volleyball in Ontario.
The 2009-10 Thunderbirds women’s team was one of the most dominant in CIS history. The squad was ranked first in the CIS the entire campaign as it went 25-0 in the regular season and playoffs en route to the program’s third consecutive national championship.
In 20 Canada West regular season matches, UBC lost just nine sets. After claiming the Canada West championship, the T-Birds went into Edmonton and swept past all comers dropping just one set in three matches, beating Manitoba 3-1 in the final.
Doug Reimer was named the CIS Coach of the Year, Claire Hanna was the CIS Libero of the year, and Liz Cordonier earned three major honours. She was the CIS Championship Most Valuable Player, the CIS Player of the Year and winner of the Jim Thompson Trophy, given to the top female athlete across all sports in the CIS.
Five players went on to play for Canada on the national team, while another represented Great Britain. In addition to Cordonier, two other players on the team would go on and win CIS Player of the Year honours.
“As I reflect back on that talented group I am struck by how winning all the matches was never, ever the goal, or even a goal, because getting ourselves in position to capture another national title was paramount,” remarked UBC head coach Doug Reimer. “But the ability to stay focussed and be able to be consistent night after night and through the pressures of playoffs speaks highly of this great group.

“The individuals were not only a great group of players for UBC volleyball, but a tremendous collective of great students and people and they continue to make outstanding contributions in sport, education and in their careers.”

The players on the 2009-10 team are: Lauren Whitehead, Liz Cordonier, Nicky Osborne, Claire Hanna, Mariah Bruinsma, Danielle Richards, Rayel Quiring, Shanice Marcelle, Kristine Johnson, Katie Tyzuk, Briana Liau Kent, Kyla Richey, Jessica von Schilling, Brina Derksen-Bergen, Kirsty Setterlund and Jen Hinze.
In addition to Reimer, the other members of the coaching and support staff are: assistant coaches Beathen Thomas, Chris Berglund and Dan Huzar and trainer Mischa Harris.
– with files from Volleyball B.C. and Volleyball Canada