HAMILTON, Ont. (CIS) – Brett Walsh, a fourth-year setter from the University of Alberta, was named the CIS player of the year in men’s volleyball, Wednesday morning.
The business student from Calgary joined a long list of MVP recipients from the Golden Bears program, including former teammate Mitch Irvine in 2013 and current U of A head coach Terry Danyluk, who was a back-to-back winner in 1980 and 1981. Walsh is also the 18th straight winner from the Canada West conference dating back to 1999 (including the defunct Great Plains conference).
Other CIS award recipients announced during the All-Canadian Breakfast at the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel were Saskatchewan setter CJ Gavlas, who was voted rookie of the year; Huskies teammate Robert Graham, a middle who received the Dale Iwanoczko Award for his excellence in volleyball, academics and community service; as well as Calgary bench boss Rod Durrant, who received TIMEX coach-of-the-year honours.
The 2016 CIS championship gets under way Thursday at McMaster University’s Burridge Gym and concludes Saturday at 6 p.m. with the national final. All 11 contests from the eight-team competition will be will be webcast live on www.CIS-SIC.tv, while Cable 14 will televise all matches locally, with the exception of quarter-finals 2 and 3.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Brett Walsh, Alberta
Walsh is the ninth CIS player of the year from perennial powerhouse Alberta since 1980.
In his fourth season with the Golden Bears, the 6-foot-5 senior led CIS in assists per set (11.76) and ranked second in the country in total assists (964). With Walsh running the offence, Alberta finished first in the nation in kills per set (14.18), team hitting percentage (.345), points and points per set, while also placing fourth in total kills. Thanks in large part to his brilliant play, the Bears topped the Canada West standings in league action with a stellar 23-1 record and sat atop the national rankings heading into the playoffs.
A first-time all-Canadian, Walsh was named a Canada West all-star for the first time a year ago, when he accomplished a rare feat by reaching the 1,000-assist plateau in a single season (1,031). He was an integral part of Alberta’s back-to-back national championships in 2014 and 2015 as he was voted to the all-tournament team two years ago and was selected tourney MVP last March in Saskatoon.
“It has been a pleasure watching Brett grow as a volleyball player and person the last four seasons,” said Alberta head coach Terry Danyluk. “He is a very focused and driven young man and his desire to compete is exceptional. I am so happy for him that his hard work and dedication to the game have gained him the respect of the coaches in our league.”
The other nominees were outside hitters Eivind Andersen of UNB, Vicente Ignacio Parraguirre Villalobos of Lavaland Stephen Maar of McMaster.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: CJ Gavlas, Saskatchewan
Gavlas, the son of Huskies head coach Brian, is the first Saskatchewan player to receive CIS rookie-of-the-year honours since the trophy was first presented in 1991.
Despite having his number called earlier than expected in his rookie campaign, Gavlas made a quick adjustment to the university game. After senior setter Troy Wiebe went down with a season-ending ankle injury early in the year, the 6-foot freshman was thrust into a starting role and continually flourished for Saskatchewan.
Gavlas finished the regular season with 9.25 assists per set, good for fourth in the Canada West conference, and also ranked in the top three in blocks, points and service aces among the league’s pure setters. The arts and science student from Saskatoon helped lead the Huskies to a 15-9 record, followed by a berth in the Canada West Final Four and a trip to the CIS championship.
“CJ had a remarkable season in our conference for a first-year setter,” said head coach Brian Gavlas. “Since he moved into the starting lineup he has helped our program put together a solid second half of the season including a playoff series victory on the road, which led to our Final Four berth. Statistically he is right up there with the veteran setters among the conference leaders.”
The other nominees were opposite Jordan Murray of Memorial, setter Gabriel Chancy of Montreal and outside hitter Chris Brunet of Queen’s.
TIMEX COACH OF THE YEAR: Rod Durrant, Calgary
Durrant, who was also Canada West coach of the year in 2011, is just the second Dinos bench boss to receive the national honour after Brad Kilb in 1978.
In his 10th season at the helm, Durrant led his team to a program-record 18 league wins and a top-five national ranking throughout the campaign. Under his leadership, the Dinos improved from an 11-13 mark and a ninth-place, non-playoff finish a year ago to an 18-6 record, good enough for third place in the ultra-competitive Canada West conference.
Without a single conference all-star on its roster, Calgary was ranked No. 3 in Canada eight times in 15 weekly coaches’ polls this season.
Since taking over the Dinos in 2006, Durrant has posted a 113-89 record in Canada West play and an 18-16 post-season mark, winning the CIS championship in 2010 and a Canada West title in 2011. He has guided the Dinos to four CIS tournament appearances during his tenure.
“Rod is well-deserving of this award after an outstanding season,” said University of Calgary athletic director Christine Stapleton. “He created a culture that inspired his team to achieve a consistent performance level in the most competitive conference in the country, and we congratulate him on this honour.”
The other nominees were Dan Ota of Dalhousie, Marc Lussier of Sherbrooke and John Barrett of Toronto.
DALE IWANOCZKO AWARD (volleyball, academics & community service): Robert Graham, Saskatchewan
Graham is only the second member of the Huskies to receive the prestigious Dale Iwanoczko Award since its inception in 1994. Andrew Lockert was the 2004 recipient.
A 6-foot-6 middle blocker in his fifth and final season with the team, the Saskatoon native’s commitment to excellence on and off the court hasn’t been unnoticed as he has won the Huskies ‘Most Dogged Dog’ Award twice in a row for being the player who typifies the true spirit of sport with his relentless pursuit of excellence.
Diagnosed with high-functioning autism as a child, Graham has worked tirelessly to become a four-time CIS Academic All-Canadian in pursuit of his education degree. He uses his free time to volunteer as a student teacher, spending a lot of time working with children with special needs.
On the court, Graham led the Canada West conference in total blocks during the regular season and was tied for first among middle players in service aces.
“Robbie is an amazing person and individual who has accomplished a lot in his time with our program,” said Huskies coach Brian Gavlas. “After struggling academically early in his career, he has gone on to become an outstanding student at our university. He is continually working to improve himself as an athlete, a teacher or a person. His daily training intensity is unmatched by anyone I have ever coached.”
The other nominees were middle Cody Timmons of UNB and outside hitter Mike Tomlinson of Queen’s.
The all-Canadian teams were also announced on Wednesday.
Joining CIS player of the year Brett Walsh on the first unit were OUA MVP Stephen Maar of McMaster, as well as Alberta left side Ryley Barnes, McMaster middle Danny Demyanenko, UBC middle Alex Russell, Thompson Rivers opposite Brad Gunter and Regina libero Jacques Borgeaud.
Barnes, Demyanenko and Gunter are all returnees from last year’s first team and all became three-time CIS all-stars. Gunter was the CIS MVP two seasons ago, while Demyanenko was the rookie of the year in 2013.
The second all-Canadian squad for 2015-16 is comprised of Brandon left side Roy Ching, Queen’s left side Marko Dakic, Alberta middle Taylor Arnett, York middle Arthur Szwarc, McMaster setter Andrew Kocur, Waterloo opposite Braden Cok and Laval libero Vincent Thibault-Bernier.
Joining CIS top freshman CJ Gavlas on the all-rookie team are Montreal setter Gabriel Chancy, Queen’s outside hitter Chris Brunet, MacEwan middle Max Vriend, Laval setter Ethan Ellison, RMC left side Dale Towe and Windsor right side Brad Gyemi.
2015-2016 CIS MEN’S VOLLEYBALL AWARDS & ALL-CANADIANS
Player of the year: Brett Walsh, Alberta
Rookie of the year: CJ Gavlas, Saskatchewan
TIMEX Coach of the year: Rod Durrant, Calgary
Dale Iwanoczko Award (volleyball, academics & community service): Robert Graham, Saskatchewan
Pos. Athlete University Year Hometown Academic Program
OH Stephen Maar McMaster 4 Aurora, Ont. History & Political Science
LS Ryley Barnes Alberta 5 St. Paul, Alta. Physical Education & Recreation
M Danny Demyanenko McMaster 4 Toronto, Ont. Justice, Political Philosophy & Law
M Alex Russell UBC 5 Surrey, B.C. Applied Science
S Brett Walsh Alberta 4 Calgary, Alta. Business
OPP Brad Gunter Thompson Rivers 4 Courtenay, B.C. Science
L Jacques Borgeaud Regina 5 Brisbane, Aust. Kinesiology & Health Studies
LS Roy Ching Brandon 4 Nelson, N.Z. Science
LS Marko Dakic Queen’s 5 Mississauga, Ont. Law
M Taylor Arnett Alberta 4 Calgary, Alta. Science
M Arthur Szwarc York 2 Toronto, Ont. Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
S Andrew Kocur McMaster 4 Toronto, Ont. Economics
OPP Braden Cok Waterloo 3 Waterloo, Ont. Computer Science
L Vincent Thibault-Bernier Laval 4 Gatineau, Que. Dentistry (medical)
S CJ Gavlas Saskatchewan 1 Saskatoon, Sask. Arts & Science
S Gabriel Chancy Montreal 1 Montreal, Que. International Studies
OH Chris Brunet Queen’s 1 Calgary, Alta. Engineering
M Max Vriend MacEwan 1 Barrhead, Alta. Commerce
S Ethan Ellison Laval 1 Toronto, Ont. Materials Engineering
LS Dale Towe RMC 1 Caledon, Ont. Business Administration
RS Brad Gyemi Windsor 1 Tecumseh, Ont. Software Engineering