CIS women’s volleyball: Manitoba’s Cockrell named player of the year

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Feb 25, 2015

TORONTO (CIS) – Rachel Cockrell, a fourth-year right side hitter from the University of Manitoba, was named the CIS player of the year in women’s volleyball, Wednesday evening.

A native of Winnipeg, Cockrell became the sixth Mary Lyons Award recipient from the Bisons’ program, and the first since Kathy Preston in 2001-02.

Other major award winners announced during the CIS Awards Gala held at the Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel in Toronto were Calgary outside hitter Kate Pexman, who captured the Mark Tennant Award as rookie of the year; Brandon’s Donata Huebert, who earned top-libero honours for the third time; UNB setter Paige Paulsen, who merited the Thérèse Quigley Award for her excellence in volleyball, academics and community service; as well as Toronto’s Kristine Drakich, who became the first Varsity Blues head coach to receive the Marilyn Pomfret Award.

The 2015 CIS championship, presented by Canuck Stuff, kicks off Thursday at University of Toronto and culminates Sunday at 5 p.m. with the gold-medal final. All 11 games from the eight-team competition will be webcast live on www.CIS-SIC.tv.

MARY LYONS AWARD (player of the year): Rachel Cockrell, Manitoba

Cockrell, 22, joins Preston, Michelle Sawatzky (1990-91, 1991-92), Loriann Sawatzky (1994-95) and Louise Wlock (1997-98) as Mary Lyons Award winners from the Bisons program.

In the regular season, Cockrell was first in the country in kills per set (5.06), total kills (471), total points (535.5) and points per set (5.8). She was dominant throughout the season as she led the defending CIS champions to a sixth-place Canada West finish with a 13-11 record and was selected as team captain for a third consecutive campaign. She started and played in all 24 conference matches and led the team in kills in every match except one, had 20 or more kills in 10 contests, and had a season-best 29-kill effort against Calgary on October 9. The 5-foot-10 senior also had eight matches of 10 or more digs to show her versatility on both offence and defence.

In addition, for her final swan song at the university level, Cockrell completed the season in style with 29 kills in the quarter-final series finale on February 14, a new Canada West playoff record.

Prior to this season, Cockrell was named MVP of the 2014 CIS championship after Manitoba swept all three matches en route to the title. In three tournament contests, she slammed 43 kills (.320 hitting percentage), 10 digs, eight total blocks and 49.5 points while starting and playing all nine sets. She was also a second-team all-Canadian in 2012-13 and a member of the CIS all-rookie squad in 2010-11.

“Everyone who saw Rachel play this year, be it the fans, the opposition, or our own team, knew they were seeing a pretty special athlete at her very best,” said 29-year Manitoba head coach Ken Bentley. “Rachel joins some very elite company, as she is the fifth athlete from our program to be selected as the player of the year in Canada. She has been an absolute pleasure to coach over her career at Manitoba.”

The other finalists were Saint Mary’s left side Rachel Windhorst, Montreal setter Katia Forcier and Toronto left side Charlotte Sider.

MARK TENNANT AWARD (rookie of the year): Kate Pexman, Calgary

In her first CIS season, Pexman made an immediate impact as a starter in the Dinos lineup. The rookie recorded a total of 297 kills over the course of the campaign, good for fourth in the nation. The Engineering student led the Dinos in kills and kills per set and came in at second in digs with 230. Pexman’s presence was integral to Calgary’s success, scoring double digits in kills in 19 of 23 games, including her best effort of the year against Mount Royal when she recorded 22 kills and 17 digs.

The Calgary native is just the third Dinos player to win the Mark Tennant Award. She joins Amanda Moppett (2000) and Janelle Findlay (2003).

“Kate has been a standout all season. I am continually impressed with her poise under pressure, physical ability on the court and mental toughness,” said Dinos head coach Natalie Gurnsey. “She earned her spot as the starting P1 on our roster, which is a position that comes with a lot of demands. Yet, she has risen to the challenge every match she has played. She has handled the mental and physical demands of a CIS student-athlete with humility and strength. She is such a special player and person. I am so proud of the work she has done this year to achieve this award and can’t think of anyone more deserving than her.”

UNB left side Victoria Eadle, Laval middle Alex Béraud and Western middle Kelsey Veltman were also in the running.

LIBERO OF THE YEAR: Donata Huebert, Brandon

Huebert is the first three-time recipient of the national honour (2015, 2014, 2011). She was also the first student-athlete in the history of Canada West to win the conference award for her position three times.

The 5-foot-9 product of Minden, Germany has been outstanding in all three campaigns she’s represented the Bobcats. This season, Huebert led the team to a 13-11 league record in the ultra-competitive Canada West conference. Her notoriety as the conference’s elite libero often leads to opposition hitting and serving to any part of the court she doesn’t defend. She finished second in Canada West in total digs (360) and fourth in digs per set (3.83), setting numerous school records for digs in the process.

On top of being named libero of the year, Huebert has also selected to the second all-Canadian team, one year after receiving a first-team nod. She is currently enrolled in Brandon University’s Faculty of Education where she has also earned Academic All-Canadian status.

“Having Donata play for us is like having another coach on the floor. She’s able to adjust our serve receive and defence on the floor according to what she sees happening in the game,” said coach Lee Carter. “She’s such an impact player that teams game plan to avoid her. Off the court she is an honours student, she is a volunteer coach, she gives back to the community, and she’s a peer tutor for other students. She does so much. She’s everything you would hope all student-athletes strive to be.”

The other nominees were Marisa Mota of Dalhousie, Joanie Whittom of Sherbrooke and Denise Wooding of Toronto.

MARILYN POMFRET AWARD (coach of the year): Kristine Drakich, Toronto

Drakich, who earned her eighth overall and second straight OUA coach-of-the-year honour this season, received her first national nod in 26 seasons as Blues bench boss.

Drakich and the Blues dropped just seven sets during the regular season, five coming on the final weekend after the team secured top spot in the division, and earned their first-ever CIS No. 1 ranking late in the campaign. As a team, Toronto led the country in four major statistical categories – kills per set, attack percentage, assists per set, and points per set.

“I’m so happy that Kristine has earned her first national recognition after many years of success,” said Beth Ali, director of intercollegiate and high performance sport. “Her commitment to athlete development and dedication to the Varsity Blues is enduring. She and her staff have developed a recognized program of excellence here at U of T and we are very proud of Kristine, her staff and our wonderful student athletes.”

Rick Scott of Dalhousie, Olivier Trudel of Montreal and Natalie Guernsey of Calgary were also up for the honours.

THÉRÈSE QUIGLEY AWARD (volleyball, academics & community service): Paige Paulsen, UNB

Paulsen, the first Thérèse Quigley Award recipient from UNB, has been playing volleyball since Grade 6. Also a high performance gymnast, she was originally cut from the Grade 6 team and ended up playing on the “B” squad, but she still loved every minute of it. She joined the Varsity Reds in 2011 as a walk-on and has since become a leader within the team, serving as captain and starting setter.

Paulsen has always been highly involved in the team’s fundraising events and has built on this experience to become a leader in many areas across UNB and the Fredericton community this year. She is the current President of the Athletes’ Council and spearheaded the organization of UNB Athletics’ first-ever Movember campaign last fall. She also helped lead UNB’s Think Pink fundraising campaign.

She is also a member of Right to Play UNB, is the Fundraising Chair of UNB Global Water Brigades, and organized volunteers for Read with the Reds, travelling to elementary schools to read to kindergarten students. She also volunteered with the Food Bank, blood drives, Habitat for Humanity and many other local charities.

Paulsen, who is also passionate about coaching and was a coach with Volleyball New Brunswick last summer, calls the years she played with UNB “the best years of [her] life.” She says the encouragement and support she has received from her teammates and coaches has motivated her to become not only a better volleyball player but a better leader and student.

“Paige is truly an inspiration to the people who know her. I’m continually amazed by how much is able to pack into a week and how much positivity and energy she brings to everything she does,” said head coach Jillian Goulet. “As a team captain, she led our team’s drive and energy day after day at practice, and also models the time-management and focus needed to excel academically to our younger athletes. I am extremely happy to see Paige recognized with the Thérèse Quigley Award for this and for all that she does for others within Athletics, UNB, Fredericton and the New Brunswick volleyball community.”

The other finalists were McGill’s Virginie Hébert, York’s Jennifer Black and Calgary’s Jordynn Guy.

ALL-CANADIAN TEAMS

The all-Canadian teams were also announced on Wednesday.

Joining Cockrell on the first CIS unit were conference MVPs Katia Forcier of Montreal, Charlotte Sider of Toronto and Rachel Windhorst of Saint Mary’s, Alberta outside hitter Meg Casault, Trinity Western middle Alicia Perrin and Ottawa left side Myriam English.

Sider (2014 second team), Casault (2014 second), Perrin (2013 & 2012 second) and English (2014 first) are all repeat all-Canadians.

In addition to Huebert, this season’s second dream team is comprised of UBC Okanagan middle Katy Klomps, Laval middle Alyssa Fields-Bouchard, Thompson Rivers outside Iuliia Pakhomenko, Sherbrooke middle Roxane Hasseni, Montreal power Marie-Alex Bélanger and Alberta middle Dione Lang.

Hasseni was honoured for the fourth straight year, including first-team nods in 2013 and 2014.

Pexman was joined on the CIS all-rookie squad by UNB left side Victoria Eadle, Western middle Kelsey Veltman, Laval middle Alex Béraud, Saint Mary’s setter Elly Prince, McGill middle Myriam Robitaille and Dalhousie left side Mieke Dumont.

2014-2015 CIS WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL AWARDS & ALL-CANADIANS

Mary Lyons Award (player of the year): Rachel Cockrell, Manitoba
Mark Tennant Award (rookie of the year): Kate Pexman, Calgary
Libero of the year: Donata Huebert, Brandon
Marilyn Pomfret Award (coach of the year): Kristine Drakich, Toronto
Thérèse Quigley Award (volleyball, academics & community service): Paige Paulsen, UNB

First Team

Pos. – Athlete – University – Year – Hometown – Faculty

RS – Rachel Cockrell – Manitoba – 4 – Winnipeg, Man. – Arts
S – Katia Forcier – Montreal – 2 – St. Jean sur Richelieu, Que. – Audiology
OH – Meg Casault – Alberta – 3 – Edmonton, Alta. – Phys. Ed. & Recreation
M – Alicia Perrin – TWU – 5 – Creston, B.C. – Arts
LS – Charlotte Sider – Toronto – 5 – Ottawa, Ont. – Kinesiology
LS – Rachel Windhorst – Saint Mary’s – 2 – Surrey, B.C. – Arts
LS – Myriam English – Ottawa – 5 – Orleans, Ont. – Education

Second Team

M – Katy Klomps – UBC-O – 4 – Surrey, B.C. – Nursing
M – Alyssa Fields-Bouchard – Laval – 2 – Chibougamau, Que. – Translation
OH – Iuliia Pakhomenko – TRU – 3 – Donetsk, Ukraine – Masters (Bus. Admin.)
M – Roxane Hasseni – Sherbrooke – 4 – Paris, France – Masters (Pol. Science)
L – Donata Huebert – Brandon – 3 – Minden, Germany – Education
PH – Marie-Alex Bélanger – Montreal – 2 – Joliette, Que. – Administration
M – Dione Lang – Alberta – 5 – Killam, Alta. – Phys. Ed. & Recreation

All-Rookie Team

OH – Kate Pexman – Calgary – 1 – Calgary, Alta. – Engineering
LS – Victoria Eadle – UNB – 1 – Gallagher Ridge, N.B. – Rec. & Sport Studies
M – Kelsey Veltman – Western – 1 – Brampton, Ont. – King’s College
M – Alex Béraud – Laval – 1 – Trois-Rivières, Que. – Nursing
S – Elly Prince – Saint Mary’s – 1 – Calgary, Alta. – Arts
M – Myriam Robitaille – McGill – 1 – Terrebonne, Que. – Science (Biology)
LS – Mieke Dumont – Dalhousie – 1 – Kamloops, B.C. – Kinesiology

About Canadian Interuniversity Sport

Canadian Interuniversity Sport is the national governing body of university sport in Canada. Every year, over 11,500 student-athletes and 700 coaches from 56 universities and four regional associations vie for 21 national championships in 12 different sports. CIS also provides high performance international opportunities for Canadian student-athletes at Winter and Summer Universiades, as well as numerous world university championships. For further information, visit www.cis-sic.ca or follow us on:

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