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)
Thursday: Most Outstanding winners for each team (Find the story here)
Today: 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 Team of the Year award honours the Griffins squad which best excels in the three pillars of a MacEwan student-athlete: athletics, academics and community service.
The 2019-20 winner of the award (after a vote by MacEwan Athletics' coaches and staff) is the Griffins women's volleyball team.
With the best regular season in the program's Canada West history – finishing 17-7 – the Griffins not only made the CW playoffs for the first time, they earned the right to host a CW playoff weekend for the first time since joining the conference in 2014-15.
Head coach Ken Briggs, who won became the first Griffins bench boss to win Canada West and U SPORTS coach of the year honours, said their success is due to the old adage – there's no substitute for experience.
"It's our first group that has Canada West experience from the beginning that worked their way to this year as a veteran group," he said. "You can't replace experience. They didn't get frazzled. They've been through it. You watch the comments and over and over it became the growth. The year before we would have panicked. This year we didn't."
Led by fifth-year graduating seniors Haley Gilfillan, Mckenna Stevenson, Lauren Holmes and Hailey Cornelis, the Griffins finished the season ranked eighth in U SPORTS before falling to Thompson Rivers University in the opening round of the playoffs.
"It was led by those four (seniors), but also having a setter who has set three years in the league was crucial," said Briggs of Kylie Schubert, who became the first Griffin to win a U SPORTS female athlete of the week award when she topped everyone in the country on Jan. 8. "All of those things came together and we had a very balanced attack. It's not just counting on one person. We had weekends were we had four girls in double digit kills."
Academically, the Griffins women's volleyball team remarkably boasted 14 student-athletes with at least a 3.0 GPA in 2019-20.
And in the community, the group was active throughout the season in several initiatives, including helping organize a coats and winter apparel collection initiative and being part of an educational reading program at McKernan elementary, NAVC annual position clinic and camps, the annual Big Kahuna high school volleyball showcase and an Enoch Cree Nation visit for an intra-squad game and talk with students.
Additionally, Mackenzie Oshanek-Gladue served as the Griffins Student Athlete Council president, while Carly Weber was its secretary for 2019-20.
"We're a well-rounded team," said Briggs. "Look at us academically. They take care of business. Then unique things like Rachel (Jorvina) coming up with 'hey, it's cold in January. Let's collect coats.' The things they come up with and the camps and clinics we run – Lauren (Holmes), with her nursing background, always organizes a blood drive every year.
"They'll jump in and help out with anything."