After playing a leading role in Calgary’s first-place finishing during the regular season, Dinos outside hitter Kate Pexman has been named the 2017-18 Canada West Women’s Volleyball Player of the Year.
The third-year Engineering student was named as the conference’s top player Tuesday, as she and the Dinos get set to host the Canada West championship game this Friday against the UBC Thunderbirds (6 p.m. MST).
Pexman earned the honour after leading CW with 3.90 kills per set, while ranking 10th in total kills with 273 despite missing six games. The third-year Dino was sixth in the conference in hitting percentage at .263 and 12th in digs per set at 2.90.
The Calgary, Alta. native won’t be the only major award winner in action this Friday, as teammate Brianna Solberg (Student-Athlete Community Service) and Thunderbird star Kiera Van Ryk (Rookie of the Year) will also take the floor.
In addition to the three players honoured Tuesday, Regina Cougars head coach Melanie Sanford was also acknowledged for her accomplishments this season.
Sanford was named the CW Coach of the Year after guiding the Cougars to a 12-12 record and playoff berth. Regina’s .500 record marked the highest win total for the Cougars since 2013-14 when they went 12-10.
All four Canada West major award winners now move forward as the conference nominees for the U SPORTS national awards, which will be handed out as part of the national tournament slated for March 15-18 at Université Laval in Quebec, Que.
2017-18 CW WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL AWARDS
Player of the Year
OH – Kate Pexman, Calgary Dinos
2017-18 CW regular season: 18 GP / 4.7 points per set / 3.9 kills per set / .263 hitting percentage
Third-year Engineering student Kate Pexman is the conference’s top player after a dominant season for the first-place Dinos.
Pexman, who was named a conference second star of the week twice this season (Jan. 23 and Feb. 6), helped Calgary to a 21-3 record, as the Dinos topped the conference regular season standings for the first time since 2004-05.
The Calgary, Alta. product led CW with 3.90 kills per set and ranked 10th in total kills with 273 despite missing six games. She was also sixth in the conference in hitting percentage at .263 and 12th in digs per set at 2.90.
Pexman, who was the CW Rookie of the Year in 2014-15, is the first Dino to win the conference’s top women’s volleyball honour since Holly Harper claimed the award in 2008-09.
“Kate has been exceptional for us all season. At the net, she is a force to be reckoned with. But what I appreciate most about Kate is that she is truly an all-around player. She often contributes as many points from her back row play as her front row. She is growing in her leadership and learning what it takes to take control of a match as a left side. Kate is a smart, humble, hardworking athlete and deserves the honour of player of the year.” – Natalie Gurnsey, Calgary head coach.
Rookie of the Year
OH – Kiera Van Ryk, UBC Thunderbirds
2017-18 CW regular season: 24 GP / 4.4 points per set / 3.74 kills per set / .204 hitting percentage
Taking on a central role in just her first season of university competition, Kiera Van Ryk didn’t disappoint en route to her Canada West Rookie of the Year honour.
The Surrey, B.C. product was a first team all-star this season in the country’s deepest conference, as UBC finished second in the CW standings at 20-4.
The Kinesiology student and former member of the Canadian Junior National Team finished third in the conference this season with 3.74 kills per set and just outside the top 10 in hitting percentage at .204 – good for 12th.
She is the first Thunderbird to be named the CW Rookie of the Year since Canada West and the Great Plains Athletic Conference merged as a single volleyball conference in 2001.
“In a year where there were a lot of good rookies, she, in my humble opinion, clearly stood out from the pack. I don’t remember the last time a rookie has been a first team all-star and I think that speaks to the respect the other coaches in the conference have in her ability.”
“People will really note her offensive prowess but part of the respect I have for her and where she’s really helped our team is her all around play, and I think that’s also very rare in a rookie of the year.” – Doug Reimer, UBC head coach.
Student-Athlete Community Service
OH – Brianna Solberg, Calgary Dinos
2017-18 CW regular season: 22 GP / 1.7 points per set / 1.21 kills per set
A starter for the Calgary Dinos the last two seasons, Brianna Solberg has epitomized what it means to be a student-athlete.
The Arts student has excelled in the classroom with a perfect 4.0 GPA the last four semesters, while also balancing volleyball and a lengthy list of ongoing volunteer activities.
She is currently working on her honours thesis focusing on more sustainable public policy planning for transportation in Calgary. The goal is to decrease the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector and subsequent impacts of climate change.
Her weekly volunteer activities include: practicing reading skills with kindergarten students at Terrace Road Elementary School as part of Calgary Reads programming, along with strength training exercises for adults along the autism spectrum through the Autism and Asperger’s Friendship Society of Calgary’s Stepping Out Program.
She also volunteers several times a month at the Mustard Seed handing out hot breakfasts to shelter guests, and has also worked with the Cochrane Pregnancy Care Centre helping with outreach, fundraising and research.
“Brianna accomplishes more in a day than many people do in a week. She is incredibly intelligent with a huge heart to help the community around her. She is always looking for ways to challenge herself and give back to those around her. This award is well-deserved and I know a lot of hard work has gone into achieving it. She is a wonderful example to everyone around her about how to give back to our community.” – Natalie Gurnsey, Calgary head coach.
Coach of the Year
Melanie Sanford, Regina Cougars
2017-18 CW regular record: 12-12 (7th in Canada West)
For the first time in her 15 seasons at the University of Regina, Melanie Sanford has been named the Canada West Coach of the Year.
The veteran coach and former All-Canadian at the University of Saskatchewan earned praise from her fellow coaches after leading Regina to a turnaround 12-12 record this season – a nine-game improvement from last season when Sanford took a coaching hiatus to work on other initiatives within Regina’s athletics department.
This season marked the highest win total for the Cougars since 2013-14 when they went 12-10.
“It’s been incredible to see the growth of Melanie’s team over the course of the season and exciting to see her young squad win Canada West matches over three of the five teams that finished over .500 this year. With half of the team’s starters only in their first or second season at the U SPORTS level and the entire roster coming back next season, Melanie has set the table for this team to take an even bigger step forward in 2018-19.” – Lisa Robertson, Regina Director of Sport, Community Engagement, and Athlete Development