Griffins announce Most Improved Player award winners for the 2019-20 season

Griffins announce Most Improved Player award winners for the 2019-20 season

MacEwan Athletics

In a new world of social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are announcing all 2019-20 Griffins award winners online over the next few days. Here is our schedule:

Today: Most Improved winners for each team

Thursday: Most Outstanding winners for each team

Friday: Team of the Year

Saturday: Academic Team of the Year

Monday, March 30: Female Rookie of the Year

Tuesday, March 31: Male Rookie of the Year

Wednesday, April 1: Female Athlete of the Year

Thursday, April 2: Male Athlete of the Year

Our Most Improved awards are a testament to the dedication and hard work that our student-athletes put in on a daily basis throughout the year. Self-explanatory, they go to the Griffins (in good academic standing) who've shown the most improvement throughout the season.

Women's Basketball

Hayley Lalor

The progression Lalor showed in her second season with the Griffins was remarkable as she grew into a key contributor for the team, logging 21.7 minutes per game. Lalor produced 4.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.5 steals a game, but beyond the statistics it was her gumption and grit on the court that was especially key for the Griffins.

Coach's quote:

"It's one thing to look from last season to this season and the gains she made and her overall understanding of the game. She's just a workhorse. She's a great on-ball defender and her work ethic inspires the rest of the team to play with a certain intensity and passion. From one season to another, the numbers alone speak for themselves. If you look over the course of this season as well, she really improved her consistency and ability to score. At the end of the season, she became just a really reliable defender for us."

-Katherine Adams

Hayley Lalor averaged 21.7 minutes per game for the Griffins women's basketball team in 2019-20 (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Men's Basketball

Jesse Trussler

More than doubling his minutes/game in 2019-20 (up to 18.8 from 9.0 in his rookie season), the point guard put in valuable time on the floor for the Griffins men's basketball team. His off-court contributions were just as big for a young squad that's learning to play and prepare the right way.

Coach's quote:

"Jesse has not only grown into our Most Improved Player, he is also growing into a very important leadership role in the program. Jesse worked very hard last off season not just improving his skill sets and physical make-up of his body but also his decision making and leadership skills. It is these skills which have had the greatest impact on the team. Jesse makes people around him better and holds them accountable."

-Mike Connolly

Jesse Trussler had meaningful contributions both on and off the court, providing valuable leadership for the Griffins men's basketball team (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Women's cross country

Emma Steele

Leading the Griffins with a 57th-place finish at the U SPORTS cross-country championship (15th among Canada West runners), Steele capped a second solid season with the Griffins. At the inaugural Canada West championship, Steele finished 22nd – second amongst MacEwan athletes behind teammate Kiana Row.

Coach's quote:

"Emma consistently performed the way she did last year and posted many solid performances. She had a lot of little issues she had to deal with last year and this year she overcame a lot of small injuries that would slow her down. She managed to get past that. She kept pace with Kiana (Row). She was not very far off some of the races Kiana had. For this award, I look at her ability to run and how she improved as a team leader."

-Drew Carver

Emma Steele was solid for the Griffins all season, including running a great time during a September race in Seattle (Linda Miller photo).

Men's cross country

Mason Burtnik

The rookie came to the Griffins without much formal cross-country running preparation and steadily improved as the season went along. He worked hard in training and learned the necessary strategies to improve his times.

Coach's quote:

"Mason came to us as a cyclist and he basically didn't really have any running concept of how to race. So, he took everything he did from his cycling world and applied it. He found out it didn't quite match up, but he quickly learned how it all worked and improved steadily as the year went on."

-Drew Carver

Mason Burtnik got better as the season went along as he learned the ropes in his first Canada West cross country season (Linda Miller photo).

Women's Curling

Rachael Hansen

The first-year student-athlete contributed solid shots for the Griffins mixed curling rink, helping them win the ACAC championship last month in Red Deer. As an alternate for the squad, which also included skip Rebecca Bartz, third Brandt Holt, second Brennin Turner, lead Zale Zabolotniuk and fellow alternate Joel MacDonald, she saw playing time in the championship and contributed to the seventh ACAC mixed banner in program history.

Coach's quote:

"Rachael is a first-year player with the Griffins mixed team who won the ACAC 2019 -2020 gold medal. She took all of the coaching that she was given and worked and practiced over the season to steadily improve her game. She was one of the keys to winning a number of games in the ACAC regional and provincial championship."

-Tom Kitagawa

Rachael Hansen saw action at the ACAC Championship, where she helped the Griffins win the seventh mixed title in program history (Courtesy Red Deer College).

Men's Curling

Joel MacDonald

A rookie with the Griffins curling team in 2019-20, MacDonald played lead with the men's rink, which also included skip Riley Ross, third Jordan Geiger, second Brandon Rubisch. MacDonald provided a number of solid shots for the team that showed it could play with any in the ACAC before just falling short of qualifying for the ACAC Championship. MacDonald then joined the mixed rink at provincials and saw playing time in helping them win a banner.

Coach's quote:

"He, like the other players, took the coaching he received and worked to steadily improve his game over the year. The men's team fell just short of qualifying for the ACAC provincial championship. Joel was a key to the men's team being as successful as they were. As the lead on the men's team, he started many ends by placing his rocks into the correct position to start the end in a strong position."

-Tom Kitagawa

Joel MacDonald logged double duty in his rookie season, playing lead on MacEwan's men's team and then helping the mixed squad claim an ACAC Championship (Joel Kingston photo).

Women's Golf

Terynn Jensen

Improvement is tangible in golf and the first-year player out of Canmore saved her best round of the season for her last, posting a 92 in the final round of the ACAC Championship in inclement weather at Coal Creek Golf Resort. That's 11 shots better than her first round of the year at the ACAC South Regional at Red Tail Landing.

Coach's quote:

"Terynn was an absolute pleasure to have on the team this season. Her coachability and competitive drive made her a perfect fit on the team and over time would have developed into a great leader for the women's the team. Her great attitude and team-oriented support for her teammates made the team better – something every coach looks for in players."

-Jodi Campbell

Terryn Jensen's best round of the season came in her last - a 92 in inclement weather at Coal Creek Golf Resort during the ACAC Championship (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Men's Golf

Blake Caron

Caron went from a successful tryout for the MacEwan golf team to being an important part of the Griffins men's squad that went to the CCAA national championship. Caron's second-best round of the season came at the end – a 77 in the final round of the CCAA nationals that secured him a tie for 44th in the event.

Coach's quote:

"I met Blake the day before our 2019 tryouts this past season, and soon realized that he was a gamer. Blake's development early on in the season earned him a spot in our top-five for our team score, and as a rookie this was phenomenal. His work ethic and dedication to the team kept him in that spot throughout the year and earned him a spot on our nationals team. Outside of his performance, Blake was a pleasure to have on the team."

-Jodi Campbell

Blake Caron went from impressing in tryouts to earning a spot on MacEwan's men's team at the CCAA national championship (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Women's Hockey

Breanna Golosky

Spending much of her first three seasons with the Griffins as a healthy scratch, the forward showed dramatic improvements in her play in 2019-20, recording two goals and five points in playing 22 regular season games, while adding an assist in four playoff contests. She also drew the most penalties on the Griffins and proved she was one of the best skaters in the conference, consistently pressuring opposing defences.

Coach's quote:

"Bre spent the majority of her first three seasons with the Griffins in the stands, and after a very tough conversation at the end of last year, she came to training camp this season a different player on so many levels. I pushed her to make a decision – completely buy-in and invest in your development – both physically and mentally as a high performance athlete – or move on and she clearly made the right choice. She changed how she trained, and in turn, changed her mental performance. A lot of players in her situation would have walked away and Bre did the exact opposite. She did everything that I asked and more. The most improved award is always a tough one, but this year she made it easy."  

-Lindsay McAlpine

Breanna Golosky re-dedicated herself in off-season training and it paid off with the best season of her ACAC career (Joel Kingston photo).

Men's Hockey

Cameron Reagan

After making meaningful contributions as a rookie in 2018-19, Reagan's role grew after a number of defencemen moved on from the program. He thrived on the extra minutes, leading all Griffins blueliners with six goals and 26 points in 28 regular season games, while adding an assist in three playoff contests. As a result, Reagan was named the ACAC first all-star team.

Coach's quote:

"He just took a big step from the previous year to this year. Cam Reagan's always been an important piece of the puzzle on the back end right from Day 1. As a first-year guy, he made an impact, but this year just to shoulder a lot of the responsibilities when guys like (Tyler) Morrison and (Stefan) Danielson and (Taylor) Bilyk moved on, he excelled and was able to put up almost a point a game while doing it. It was a pretty impressive year."

-Michael Ringrose

Cameron Reagan broke out in his second season with the Griffins with 26 points in 28 games and made the ACAC first all-star team (Joel Kingston photo).

Women's Soccer

Kaylin Hermanutz

In her third season with the Griffins after transferring from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, the midfielder started 12 games and was integral in the team finishing with the best record in program history. Hermanutz recorded a goal and an assist, with 15 shots (seven on goal) and was a big driver of MacEwan's offensive attack.

Coach's quote:

"Kaylin just continues to get better and better. This year she was a 90-minute standout who was a massive piece to the puzzle in our midfield. Her ability to get forward and break lines and connect with our front three really kind of allowed us to play the way that we wanted to play. We've always said as a coaching staff that Kaylin is our best passer. The amount of balls she threads onto our front three that players get on the end of is quite special. What really has changed her role immensely for us is the work she does defensively. She's really turned into the complete package. Kaylin's growth from the start of the year to the end was huge. She's just a special talent, a leader and an inspiration to the team."

-Dean Cordeiro

Kaylin Hermanutz created a ton of offence, while proving to be a stalwart defender in midfield as she helped the Griffins post their best record in program history (Chris Piggott photo).

Men's Soccer

Tom Alberkant

With his relentless pursuit of the ball, the rookie consistently won tackles and controlled the action in midfield for the Griffins. Alberkant ended up starting five matches for the Griffins and played in 12 regular season games during his first season, consistently becoming more of a force as he became accustomed to the Canada West level.

Coach's quote:

"Tom came to us as a last-minute signing, and we, as a program, are extremely happy he is with us for seasons to come. Improving week in and week out – both in-season and in off-season – is promising for our program. His tenacity and level of compete is contagious to our group. We look forward to his continued work within Griffins soccer."

-Adam Loga

Tom Alberkant, shown battling for a ball against UBC in a 2019 game at Commonwealth Stadium, demonstrated a welcome high work-rate for the Griffins in his rookie season (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Women's Indoor Track

Shaunice Burgers

With a season of strong training, the second-year Griffins student-athlete ran a personal best in the women's 600 metres at the ACAC Running Room Grand Prix #2 in Red Deer earlier this month – a meet which ended up being the final one of a shortened season. She finished in 1:42.79 to place second and was trending in a strong direction heading into the ACAC Championship, which was ultimately cancelled in wake of the COVID-19 situation.

Coach's quote:

"Shaunice came in with a little bit of a lack of confidence not knowing if she could perform in the 600. She felt good about her 300 and she improved her time over last year. She got us enough points last year, but this year she was looking even better. We went into the last couple races with a full training load behind her. She wasn't quite rested and she still improved on her time, so we were looking forward to the championship, hoping she could knock off another second or two off her 600. And this year, she could have also got another second off her 300."

-Drew Carver 

Shaunice Burgers races down the stretch during the women's 600 at January's MacEwan Invitational (Robert Antoniuk photo).         

Men's Indoor Track

Thomas Cross-Trush

The fourth-year Griffins student-athlete worked hard in training as he pushed to run longer distances for the team. A 300-metre specialist, the one-time ACAC record holder in the distance was beginning to train for the 600 metres to help the squad stretch out its results in a bid for the team title. He was also competitive for the 300 gold with teammate Caelen Begg at the time of the championships' cancellation.

Coach's quote:

"Tommy was after the same ACAC 300-metre records as teammate Caelen Begg and he was hoping for one more shot because he felt he could put everything forward. Tommy stepped up and was even considering running the 600 metres, which was a big stretch for him. I could see his training and attitude and everything had steadily improved."

-Drew Carver

Thomas Cross-Trush was a strong contributor to the team in 2020, training to race the 600 out of his comfort zone to better the squad's championship chances (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Women's Volleyball

Lauren Holmes

With a renewed commitment to training in a bid for a super final season with the Griffins, Holmes made a major impact in getting the program over the hump and into the Canada West playoffs for the first time. She led the Griffins in kills (237) and points (295.0), while finishing second on the team in service aces (35) and third in digs (247).

Coach's quote:

"What she added to us offensively – her efficiency and steady play – was huge. She was an all-star this year. She was terrific and that led to a big jump for our team. Our biggest thing over the years is we weren't very efficient. We would get 13 kills, but we'd have seven errors. Her efficiency this year was excellent and she led our team in scoring. We saw how much she mattered at the end when we lost her (to injury before the playoff series against Thompson Rivers University). She gave us that 1-2-3-4 punch. And then she's our best defender next to Rachel (Jorvina)."

-Ken Briggs

Lauren Holmes led the Griffins in kills and was a big reason they earned the program's first Canada West playoff berth during her final season at MacEwan (Eduardo Perez photo).

Men's Volleyball

Ethan Happer

The 6-foot-5 rookie entered the Griffins program in 2019-20 fresh off playing mostly as a right-side opposite hitter in club volleyball. He was asked to transition to middle blocker, adding to the learning curve that came with acclimating to the Canada West level. Happer's rookie season was interrupted by an injury, but he still saw action in 29 sets, recording 15 kills, three service aces and 18 blocks, while posting the second-best blocks/set average (0.62) on the team.

Coach's quote:

"He's very smart in the classroom and he's a smart athlete. You could tell he wanted that coaching and he really absorbed it. Every time a coach said something to him, he really internalized it and tried to apply it, which is impressive. I thought he showed a ton of progression throughout the year. I love having guys like him in the program. They come every day wanting to improve and I think he did over the course of the year."

-Brad Poplawski 

Ethan Happer, seen blasting a ball past a blocker during a match against Thompson Rivers University, adjusted well to the middle in his rookie Canada West season (Robert Antoniuk photo).