Ryerson, Waterloo score impressive award hauls, highlighted by veteran Vernon and rookie Glynn

Photo by Alex D'Addese
Photo by Alex D'Addese

Burlington, Ont. – The top team in each division came away with a number of award winners and all-star selections – individuals that led them to their respective 17-win seasons – putting a feather in successful campaigns from them and a number of other conference stars this year. Ontario University Athletics (OUA) is pleased to announce the 2018-19 women’s volleyball award winners and all-stars, highlighted by a veteran Ryerson powerhouse and upstart Waterloo rookie.

Theanna Vernon (Scarborough, Ont.) was a force in the middle for Ryerson a year ago, and her status has been cemented once again with a Player of the Year selection in her fifth year. She was as efficient and effective as they come this season, checking in well above the pack with a .410 hitting percentage, en route to nearly 3.0 kills per set. Similarly, her dominance continued to the other side of the ball with an OUA-leading 1.56 blocks per game – more than 0.5 above her closest competitor. With a player of Vernon’s all-star quality anchoring the team from the middle, it’s easy to understand why Ryerson has epitomized excellence against the OUA this season, but it doesn’t end there.

While this will be the final season for Vernon, it is the first for another award-winning Ram, who was a big reason that Vernon, along with the team’s additional three all-stars, were able to thrive on the offensive end. Lauren Wong (Scarborough, Ont.) claimed this year’s East Division Rookie of the Year nod, doing so on the back of a league-leading 9.70 assists per set. The precision passer was spectacular all season, performing at a consistent clip from start to finish; a stretch that included nine games with at least 40 assists, including a season-high 48 against York to open the winter semester. Wong rounded out her debut campaign with 0.49 service aces per set as well as 2.17 digs per set for the powerhouse Rams.

When it comes to the remaining three all-stars, it is a trio of veterans that have continued their potent production. Flanking Vernon on the first team is Lauren Veltman (Brampton, Ont.), while second-teamers Brett Hagarty (Aurora, Ont.) and Cailin Wark (Georgetown, Ont.) have also collected all-star status for the 17-win squad. Another sign that the future is bright for the Rams, meanwhile, is Katelyn Grasman (Komoka, Ont.), who joins Wong on this year’s all-rookie team.

While each of these athletes has been instrumental to Ryerson’s strong season, they are also buoyed by one of the best bench bosses in the league. Dustin Reid, for the second straight year, has been named the East Division Coach of the Year, after guiding Ryerson to a 17-2 campaign. Beyond the wins and loss, the Rams, under Reid’s tutelage, produced leading marks in kills per set (12.36), hitting percentage (.280), assists per set (11.41), and points per set (16.9) this season, all en route to topping the U SPORTS national rankings for the first time in program history.

The West Division has seen some new faces lead the charge during award season, and at the forefront is Laura Condotta (Etobicoke, Ont.). Brock’s fourth-year outside hitter takes home the division’s top player honours after playing her way in and around the top of several key offensive categories this season. Condotta put home a total of 245 kills on the year, good for average of 3.50 per set (5th in OUA). While her hitting percentage doesn’t jump off the page, it is her aggressive play and relentless attack that makes her one of the most fearsome hitters in the province. The Team Ontario Beach member, who has represented Team Canada at multiple events, also picked up 3.29 digs per set and 0.41 service aces per set, and as the focal point of the Badgers’ offence, has earned a sizzling 4.1 points per set as well (5th in OUA). 

Also being recognized from the Badgers is second-team all-star Darby Taylor and all-rookie team member Jamie Holland (Whitby, Ont.).

Someone else whose stock went through the roof this year came in the form of Waterloo rookie Sarah Glynn (Fredericton, NB), and as one of the key cogs of the well-oiled Warriors machine this season, she is the recipient of the West Division Rookie of the Year honours. Despite this being her first year of university play, the right-side standout made waves immediately in helping her team rise the conference ranks. She finished seventh in kills per set at 3.34 –just behind her teammate and fellow first-team all-star Claire Mackenzie (Vancouver, B.C.) – and earned a total of 234 kills overall. Glynn also picked up 23 blocks and 26 service aces on the season, while tying her aforementioned teammate with 3.9 points per set (T7th in OUA) for the upstart Warriors.

With performances like those from the one-two punch of Glynn and Mackenzie, the nationally-ranked Warriors’ impressive season comes as no surprise, but another key factor to their turnaround is West Division Coach of the Year Richard Eddy. The fifth-year Warriors coach guided his squad to a nine-win improvement, going from a fourth-place divisional finish in 2017-18 to top spot just one year later. The team’s 17 wins matched the reigning national champions for tops in the conference, with the success in the win column being backed by top-five ranks in hitting percentage (.219), kills per set (11.79), service aces per set (2.37), and assists per set (11.01), among others. In achieving these lofty totals, the black and gold have also punched their ticket to the Quigley Cup Final four for the first time since 2008.

Among the additional standouts that Eddy had the pleasure of coaching this season were second-team all-stars Claire Gagne (Cambridge, Ont.) and Ella Stewart (Ottawa, Ont.), with the former finishing in the OUA’s top-five in assists and service aces per set and the latter representing another of the conference’s rising stars as an all-rookie recipient as well.

It’s clear that these award winners have all made their mark on the court, but another pair of individuals went beyond the court to make an impact in the classroom and the community en route to their Award of Merit selections. In the East, it is Caroline Livingston (Kelowna, B.C.) from the Queen’s Gaels who turned her well-rounded efforts into the provincial recognition, while Courtney Sestric (London, Ont.) took home the honours in the West Division for the Western Mustangs.

The Gaels veteran put forth an all-star calibre season on the court, garnering first-team honours as a result, but it didn’t stop there for the fifth-year player. The recipient of numerous scholarships and awards during her time at Queen’s, the decorated outside hitter has also been heavily involved in the game in other roles, such as coach, camp counsellor, and referee. She has also been part of the Queen’s Varsity Leadership Council – a group that serves as a liaison between the Gaels athletic department and over 300 student-athletes – since 2015, taking on the role of Co-President this year, and working to support initiatives such as Martha’s Table, Autism Mentorship Program, and Bell Let’s Talk.

For all of her efforts, Livingston was also nominated for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy at the 2018 National Philanthropy Day Awards by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (Southeastern Ontario chapter), which is a true testament to her generous and dedicated efforts to the school and community.

Queen’s is also represented by a slew of additional standouts, including first-teamer Sierra Hardy (Oakville, Ont.), second-team all-star and last year’s top rookie Julia Wiercigroch (Mississauga, Ont.), as well as all-rookie recipient Arielle Palermo (Burlington, Ont.).

Western’s five-year starter, meanwhile, has been a force on the court during her time with the purple and white, and will go down the team’s all-time leader in career digs. But Sestric’s ability on the court is not the only thing that helps the Mustangs’ libero garner the respect and admiration of her coaches and teammates. She has also excelled in the classroom, having earned Academic All-Canadian honours in the final three years of her undergrad, as well as the community across a variety of initiatives.

The Western captain has dedicated her time as a mentor with the Student-Athlete Academic Mentorship Program to help first-year students transition to university; as a referee and instructor for various elementary school students and club events; and as a leader of the Sport Western summer camp. In that latter role, Sestric spends 10+ weeks each summer as a senior leader within the camp, designing and implementing the majority of the volleyball program for young athletes aged 6 to 15, showing that she not only enjoys playing the game, but encourages others to get involved as well. The senior, who is now in her first year of Teachers College, has also been heavily involved in her respective field, volunteering her time in various classrooms and engaging in the elementary school curriculum.

Joining Sestric in this year’s pool of premier purple ponies is an all-star and all-rookie selection. Kelsey Veltman (Brampton, Ont.) was among the league leaders in kills per set (3.58; 3rd in OUA), total kills (261; 2nd in OUA), hitting percentage (.344; 2nd in OUA), and blocks per set (0.88; T5th in OUA). The first-team all-star has showed time and time again that she can lead her team to great things, and her leadership has also helped to influence the next wave of Mustangs players. One such first-year, Kate Van Camp (Blackstock, Ont.), has stepped into a productive role in her debut season and, as such, staked her claim to a spot on the all-rookie squad.

Jessie Nairn (Oakville, Ont.) took on the role of high-usage hitter for the McMaster Marauders in 2018-19 after considerable losses to graduation and the final member of the West Division first-team all-stars ended the season with a total of 629 attempts (7th in OUA). Her 2.97 kills per set was McMaster’s best rate, sitting just outside the OUA’s top-10, while her total of 34 aces ranked fifth in the conference. The final member of the division’s second team, meanwhile, leads the Lakehead Thunderwolves in multiple facets of the game. Rheanna Geisel (Dauphin, Man.) led the way in the OUA in kills per set (4.05) and points per set (4.8), while also ranking third in total kills (255) and ninth in service aces per set (0.48).

While the previous pair represent the lone representatives from their schools, Guelph sees several Gryphons crack the conference’s crème of the crop, with first-team recipients Alex Curran (Aurora, Ont.) and Tara Tanasijevic (Toronto, Ont.) leading the way. The former made her mark as one of the premier setters in the province, trailing only the East Division’s top rookie in assists per set after racking up an average of 9.26. The latter dug deep for a top-tier season on the courts and was the true standout when it came to keeping the rally intact. The second-year libero was the conference leader in both digs per set (5.04) and total digs (363), which was almost 100 clear of the next closest competitor. Second-team all-star Michaela Hellinga (Guelph, Ont.) and all-rookie members Cassidy Collins (Fergus, Ont.) and Noa Pijl (Amsterdam, Netherlands) have also secured award-winning status for the Gryphons.

The Windsor Lancers also have a pair of players representing them on the second team and all-rookie team, respectively, including Ally Winik (Windsor, Ont.), who secured a spot on both. The rookie middle was fourth overall in hitting percentage at .330, second overall in blocks per set with 1.0, and saw a total of 157 kills in her first season with the Lancers. Helping set up Winik on many of those kills was fellow second-teamer Brooke Davis (Oakville, Ont.), who finished third overall in assists per set (9.22), setting up her teammates a total of 618 times (4th in OUA) to pick up her first all-star selection.

Once again headlining the Varsity Blues in the East Division is first-team all-star Alina Dormann (Ottawa, Ont.), as the program’s career points leader has been her usual self on the outside. The now four-time all-star picked up an outstanding average of 4.6 points per set – second in the conference – thanks in large part to her 3.91 kills per set and .292 hitting percentage. The senior reached double-digit points in all but three matches this season, including a season-high 23 kills and 26 points in a 3-1 victory at Ryerson in February.

Alongside Dormann is another flurry of all-stars, including Anna Feore (Stratford, Ont.), Anna Licht (Toronto, Ont.), and Jenna Woock (Richmond Hill, Ont.). The trio are among the best in the business year in and year out, and while all three secured at least two points per set for the Blues this season, they are also leading contributors to the team’s overall efforts in digs, service aces, and blocks, respectively. Showing that the future, much like the present, looks bright for Toronto are also a pair of East Division all-rookies – Hayley Goodwin (Nanaimo, B.C.) and Mia Workman (Ottawa, Ont.).

The final member of the East Division’s first-team contingent is Kara Stephan (Barrie, Ont.), who picks up her second straight first-team nod and third all-star selection overall. The fourth-year outside hitter finishes her four-year career at RMC with the most kills (806), aces (131), and points (991) in program history, after finishing her senior year with top-five OUA ranks in points per set (4.2), kills per set (3.55), and digs per set (3.68) for the season.

A quartet of York Lions, meanwhile, wraps up the final spots on both the second team and all-rookie team. Celeste Witzell (Kitchener, Ont.) earns her third straight OUA all-star award in what was her fifth and final season with the red and white. The veteran was once again one of the leaders for the squad, ranking third on the team in points per set and kills per set, while wrapping up the campaign as the only player on the team to appear in every set.

In her first season as the team’s starting setter, fellow Lion Chiara Da Silva (Toronto, Ont.) earns her first all-star selection, joining Witzell on the second team. The Toronto native ranked ninth in the league in assists per set on the year, collecting 7.95, while also contributing 106 digs, 17 service aces, and 47 points overall. Da Silva clearly took great strides in her sophomore season, but two of her teammates that made a splash in their first foyer into university volleyball were Olivia Kim (Scarborough, Ont.) and Tynielle Swaby (Toronto, Ont.), who round out the East Division’s all-rookie team.

The complete list of 2018-19 women’s volleyball major award winners and all-stars is below:

East Division Major Awards

Player of the Year – Theanna Vernon, Ryerson
Rookie of the Year – Lauren Wong, Ryerson
Award of Merit – Caroline Livingston, Queen’s
Coach of the Year – Dustin Reid, Ryerson

West Division Major Awards

Player of the Year – Laura Condotta, Brock
Rookie of the Year –Sarah Glynn, Waterloo
Award of Merit – Courtney Sestric, Western
Coach of the Year – Richard Eddy, Waterloo

East Division All-Stars

First Team All-Stars
Theanna Vernon, Ryerson
Alina Dormann, Toronto
Anna Feore, Toronto
Sierra Hardy, Queen’s
Caroline Livingston, Queen’s
Kara Stephan, RMC
Lauren Veltman, Ryerson

Second Team All-Stars
Chiara Da Silva, York
Brett Hagarty, Ryerson
Anna Licht, Toronto
Cailin Wark, Ryerson
Julia Wiercigroch, Queen’s
Celeste Witzell, York
Jenna Woock, Toronto

All-Rookie Team
Lauren Wong, Ryerson
Hayley Goodwin, Toronto
Katelyn Grasman, Ryerson
Olivia Kim, York
Arielle Palermo, Queen’s
Tynielle Swaby, York
Mia Workman, Toronto

West Division All-Stars

First Team All-Stars
Laura Condotta, Brock
Alex Curran, Guelph
Sarah Glynn, Waterloo
Claire Mackenzie, Waterloo
Jessie Nairn, McMaster
Tara Tanasijevic, Guelph
Kelsey Veltman, Western

Second Team All-Stars
Brooke Davis, Windsor
Claire Gagne, Waterloo
Rheanna Geisel, Lakehead
Michaela Hellinga, Guelph
Ella Stewart, Waterloo
Darby Taylor, Brock
Ally Wink, Windsor

All-Rookie Team
Sarah Glynn, Waterloo
Cassidy Collins, Guelph
Jamie Holland, Brock
Noa Pijl, Guelph
Ella Stewart, Waterloo
Kate Van Camp, Western
Ally Winik, Windsor