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

Griffins announce Most Outstanding 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:

Wednesday: Most Improved winners for each team (Find the story here)

Today: 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 Outstanding awards go to the student-athletes (in good academic standing), who are deemed the most valuable on their respective teams. With talent, hard work, mental fortitude and peak performance, these student-athletes have had indispensable seasons that are deserving of MVP recognition.

Women's Basketball

Mackenzie Farmer

The third-year guard not only led the Griffins in scoring (13.6 points per game), she made major contributions to the team across pretty much every other stats category. Playing a workhorse team-leading 30.3 minutes per game, Farmer also led the Griffins in steals and blocks, tied for the lead in rebounds, tied for second in assists and made the most free throws. Across Canada West, she tied for second in steals with 59 – a mark that broke the MacEwan record.

Coach's quote:

"She just brings so much to the table. Obviously, her ability to score in a variety of ways is huge for us. She just has a knack for putting the ball in the hoop. We've relied on her quite a bit in order to do that. In addition, when you look at the numbers, she was near the top of the conference in steals per game. She really has added more to the overall package that's helped us be successful. She's a huge part of who we are and what we do."

-Katherine Adams

Mackenzie Farmer led the Griffins in scoring, while displaying her development in other aspects of the game, including breaking the program single season Canada West record for steals (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Men's Basketball

Abdullah Shittu

A season after shattering the program record for blocks, proving what a great defensive player he is, Shittu added more offence to his game in 2019-20, leading the Griffins in scoring with 13.2 points per game. He still produced 22 blocks in 20 games (fourth-best in Canada West and third-best in MacEwan's CW history), showing his evolution to a more complete player in his third university season.

Coach's quote:

"Abdullah has the ability to take over the game both physically, with his athleticism and size, but also with his set of skills. Abdullah can fill the stat sheet and has the ability to fill every stat that is recorded. When Abdullah takes over the game physically, the team usually has success. We expect big growth in him going into next season moving forward as our Most Outstanding Player on the court."

-Mike Connolly

Abdullah Shittu made a huge impact for the Griffins at both ends of the floor in 2019-20, leading the team in scoring and blocks (Robert Antoniuk photo). 

Women's cross country

Kiana Row

Skipping the usual adjustment period rookies experience entering Canada West, Row sprinted out of the gate on her university career by finishing as the top post-secondary competitor in her opening race – the ACAC Grand Prix #1. She never let up from there, finishing as the top Griffin in races against top-level competition in Victoria and Seattle before winning the ACAC Grand Prix #5 in Camrose and finishing as a second team all-star at the Canada West championship.

Coach's quote:

"Kiana came out and performed at a high level each race. She approached it very methodically and made sure that she did everything right. She had a good race each time. She had such an impressive season for a first-year athlete. The fact that she performed at such a high level being a rookie is quite a performance. I know she had a rough high school cross-country year. She had about three or four universities who were interested in her and when she didn't have a good high school provincials, she basically was taken off their lists. But she managed to come to MacEwan and she stepped right back into it. It's clear we got a real top athlete who came to our school."

-Drew Carver

Kiana Row finished as the top Griffin at all but one race the team entered in 2019. She finished as a Canada West second team all-star (Armando Tura photo).

Men's cross country

James Thomson

Continuing to put down steady results throughout the season, Thomson ended it as the only member of a rebuilding Griffins men's cross-country team who competed at the Canada West championship. The first-year student-athlete placed 78th in 37:29 in a tough 10K field where the winner broke the 32-minute barrier.

Coach's quote:

"Going from running 10,000 metres, he'd never raced some of those distances in cross-country. It was a big uphill curve and James ended up being the only male I took to the Canada West championship because of his steady improvement and the fact he was solidly ready to race at that distance."

-Drew Carver

On a rebuilding Griffins men's cross country team, James Thomson showed enough progress that head coach Drew Carver brought him to the Canada West championship (Linda Miller photo).

Women's Curling

Rebecca Bartz

Not many can win a championship three years in a row, but that's what Bartz has on her resume after leading the Griffins mixed curling rink to the ACAC title last month in Red Deer. She also won gold with the Griffins mixed rink in 2018 and with the women's rink in 2019, while adding ACAC bronze with the 2017 mixed rink and a CCAA national championship silver with the 2019 women's team. Bartz served as MacEwan's mixed skip this season.

Coach's quote:

"As the skip, she led the team with accurate throwing, a very strong game strategy, and coolness under pressure. She is one of the key reasons why the mixed team was successful. Rebecca also skipped a ladies team to the 2020 Alberta Curling junior women's provincial championship in Lloydminster. She courageously stepped away from the ladies team this season to concentrate on her studies in nursing, where she is a fourth-year, honours student." 

-Tom Kitagawa

Rebecca Bartz delivers a rock during the ACAC Championship. The MacEwan mixed team skip led the Griffins to a title in a fantastic season (Red Deer College photo).

Men's Curling

Brandt Holt

Holt's impressive rookie season helped the Griffins capture the seventh ACAC mixed curling championship in program history. As third for a rink which also included skip Rebecca Bartz, second Brennin Turner, lead Zale Zabolotniuk, and alternates Rachael Hansen and Joel MacDonald, Holt outshot his counterpart in almost every one of MacEwan's matches.

Coach's quote:

"Brandt was a key to the Griffin mixed team winning the 2020 ACAC gold medal. His steady play, coolness under pressure and understanding of strategy all added to make the Griffins mixed team a winner. He is another player who worked with the coaches to improve his game. He took the coaching and continually practiced and worked to be one of the reasons why the Griffins won."

-Tom Kitagawa

Playing third, Brandt Holt was a key reason why the Griffins mixed team captured a gold medal at the ACAC Championship (Red Deer College photo).

Women's Golf

Jordan Hoyda

In her second season with the Griffins women's golf team, Hoyda challenged for a spot among the top players in each of her events entered. She finished as the top Griffins golfer at both regional tournaments before she was forced to withdraw from the ACAC Championship due to an injury. Hoyda was seventh at the ACAC North Regional (98-84) and fourth at the South Regional (81-88).

Coach's quote:

"This season I started to see the real potential Jordan has in her golf game. She found a confidence that made the women's team competitive even during a rebuilding year. After an injury at the ACAC championships, we soon realized how vital her contribution to the team was. Jordan was definitely our top performer throughout the season and made our team better."

-Jodi Campbell

Jordan Hoyda, seen during the ACAC North Regional at Red Tail Landing GC, posted top results for the Griffins women's golf team in 2019 (Jaelyn Birch photo).  

Men's Golf

Justin Berget

With a silver medal at the CCAA championship, Justin Berget became the first Griffins golfer in program history to hit the podium at nationals. Finishing just a shot shy of the gold medal, Berget capped a terrific season in which he won the ACAC individual title by nine shots with a clutch performance in inclement weather at Coal Creek Golf Resort and also took the ACAC North Regional crown. He was named ACAC men's golfer of the year and a CCAA All-Canadian.

Coach's quote:

"We've witnessed dominant performances throughout our team's storied past, however, Bergy certainly took it to another level this season. His leadership, elite play, and focus were on a level that is something you only see when a player is 100 per cent bought into the team. It was an absolute pleasure to watch Bergy excel over the past couple years and have it peak this season was a real treat. I'm very proud of him and how he stepped up when his team needed him the most."

-Jodi Campbell

Justin Berget's dominant season ended with a gold medal at the ACAC Championship and a silver at the CCAA national championship (Brody Mark photo).

Women's Hockey

Morgan Casson

Named captain in her final season, Casson embraced the role on and off the ice and added an offensive bent to her responsible two-way style that resulted in her being the most complete player on the team and in the conference. The graduating senior produced eight goals and 17 points in 21 regular season games and added four points in four playoff contests and was named to the ACAC first all-star team.

Coach's quote:

"Morgan exemplifies all of our identity pieces in what it means to be a Griff. Her work ethic, intensity, and desire to win is unmatched in our dressing room. Her ability to compete and impact big games was apparent in all four championship series, playing a critical role in our team's record-breaking run. Beyond hockey, Morgan is a leader in our classroom and community, as we are proud of the numerous initiatives she has started or continued within our 'Griffs Do Good Deeds' program." 

 -Lindsay McAlpine

As captain of the Griffins women's hockey team in her final season, Morgan Casson led by example with strong two-way play on the ice while being a good role model off of it (Joel Kingston photo).

Men's Hockey

Cam Gotaas

Becoming the first Griffins men's hockey player to reach 40 points in 16 years after potting 15 goals and 25 assists in 28 regular season games, Gotaas reached new offensive heights in his fourth university season. MacEwan's captain already had all the other pieces in place – strong on faceoffs, elite on the penalty kill and a perfect leader on and off the ice. His growth into a complete player resulted in him being named to the ACAC first all-star team.

Coach's quote:

"In a year when we turned over as many players as we did, Cam was asked to take on a number of different roles with our team and he excelled in all of them. Then he followed through and put up 40 points as well. The intangibles he brings on a nightly basis are things everyone on our roster looks up to. The offence he was able to produce for us this year was critical with the turnover we had."

-Michael Ringrose

In 2019-20, Cam Gotaas became the first Griffins men's hockey player to reach 40 points in 16 years (Joel Kingston photo).

Women's Soccer

Jamie Erickson

In her final university season, the fifth-year centre-back led the Griffins to the best record in program history. Besides rock solid defensive play, Erickson scored two goals and produced four points, adding the game-winning goal in MacEwan's quarter-final playoff win over Victoria. As a result, she became the first Griffins athlete to make a U SPORTS first team all-star after netting a Canada West first team all-star award and top defensive player honour.

Coach's quote:

"Jamie had another remarkable season with our team. She continues to embody what we're all about and the culture we set for our program. It's undeniable what she's been able to achieve with being a Canada West first team all-star for the second-straight year. To top that with being selected as a first team U SPORTS all-star is a remarkable way to end an illustrious five-year career. Furthermore, what gets overlooked with what Jamie does and really sets her apart from others is her work in the community, what she does for our team organizing all of our community service events. Nobody volunteers more time than Jamie and she's always there to help her teammates in any way possible. Obviously being the captain of our team, along with Kristyn Smart, Jamie's done a lot to continue to build this program on and off the pitch."

-Dean Cordeiro

Jamie Erickson made history by becoming the first Griffin in any sport to make a U SPORTS first all-star team when she was recognized for her outstanding senior women's soccer season (Robert Antoniuk photo). 

Men's Soccer

Seth Johnstone

Johnstone left an indelible mark on the program in his final season, playing a marathon 1107:16  over 13 games with a young Griffins men's soccer team. The graduating senior posted a 1.63 goals against average and .759 save percentage, while making 63 saves. He was a steadying force and gave the team a chance every outing as all but three of their eight losses were within a goal.

Coach's quote:

"Seth's return to us was timely and much needed. His leadership and maturity stabilized our young group as we progressed forward over this past season. Seth's shot-stopping ability and niche for making the big save when needed was something we, as a group, grew to expect. His guidance both on-and-off the pitch will be missed."

-Adam Loga

During his senior season in 2019, Seth Johnstone was a rock in net for a young Griffins men's soccer team (Chris Piggott photo).

Women's Indoor Track

Emma Steele

Steele's versatility and ability to follow a race plan on the track made her coach Drew Carver's choice for the team's most outstanding award. With strong runs in the women's 3000 and 1000-metre distances all season, as well as an ability to step up and perform well for the Griffins in the women's 4x400m relay had her tracking towards being a contender for the women's ACAC track athlete of the year at the ACAC Championship before it was cancelled.

Coach's quote:

"Her whole indoor season, she came out and had a steady training regimen. There were very few injuries that slowed her down compared to last year when she had a few things that kept getting in the way – getting sick and a few little injuries. This year she didn't have any of that. She just came out and trained solidly. I could count on her 100 per cent for racing and being able to perform. We went into all races with a plan and a goal and Emma executed it absolutely perfectly."

-Drew Carver

Emma Steele was consistently strong for the Griffins women's indoor track team during the 2020 season (Robert Antoniuk photo). 

Men's Indoor Track

Caelen Begg

After running the men's 300 metres in 38.39 at the 2019 ACAC Championship to finish sixth, Begg showed massive improvement in 2020, knocking more than two seconds off his time. He was undefeated against ACAC competitors in the 300 all season, winning it at the ACAC Running Room Grand Prix #1 in 36.17 and running a 35.65 at the Pandas Open to narrowly miss the ACAC record (35.61).

Coach's quote:

"Caelen, from the start of the year, came out with a goal to break the ACAC 300-metre record and he came close. He was steadily closing in on it and he believed if he would have got another shot at it at the ACAC Championship – it would have been held at the Butterdome – I think he would have broken it. He was steadily going after it and every time he had a chance, he was going after it. He's just a solid team leader."

-Drew Carver

Caelen Begg threatened the ACAC indoor track men's 300-metre record with strong performances in the distance all season for the Griffins (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Women's Volleyball

Haley Gilfillan

Breaking her own program record for hitting efficiency (.317), Gilfillan became the first in program history to be named to the Canada West first all-star team. Her ability to excel across all stats categories reveals the special player that she is as Gilfillan finished second in Canada West in blocks (102), fifth in hitting percentage, fifth in service aces (42), 15th in points (290.0) and 22nd in kills (191). She led the Griffins (17-7) to their first Canada West playoff berth.

Coach's quote:

"She had a fantastic fifth-year season. She led us in so many categories. She wasn't just a good offensive player. She's a good defensive player and was near the top of the league in aces. She had a complete game. When we had our injury late in the season, I could move her and all of a sudden, she's playing back row. It's not very common for a middle to stay in and play all the way around. She's a fantastic blocker. She has all the skills that a good person in her position needs – she had that and more. Then you add in her leadership.  She took care of the team. She's the communicator. Academically, she's motived and has a future career with psychology and counselling. Five years ago, nobody could predict how well rounded a student athlete she could be."

-Ken Briggs

In a fitting end to her illustrious five-year career with the Griffins, Haley Gilfillan became the first Griffins player to make a Canada West first all-star team (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Men's Volleyball

Max Vriend

Breaking seven program records and tying another with a senior season for the ages, the fifth-year outside hitter made the Canada West second all-star team – the first all-star honour of his career. In a season in which he became the 24th player in Canada West history to reach 1,000 career kills, Vriend ended the year as the first in program history to lead CW in kills (317), kills per set (4.17) and points per set (4.8). Among other MacEwan records he broke was his own for kills in a match when he rained 32 of them down on UBC-Okanagan on Jan. 31.

Coach's quote:

"Any time you can make school history is pretty impressive. I think the numbers speak for themselves. Any time you can lead Canada West in statistical categories, that means you're doing something well. As a career, to crack the 1,000-kill mark is just phenomenal and remarkable. Max is extremely deserving being named our most outstanding player."

-Brad Poplawski

Max Vriend became the first player in program history to lead Canada West in kills, kills per set and points per set in a remarkable senior season (Eduardo Perez photo).