Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – It's only fitting that in a season of firsts for the MacEwan women's volleyball team, the program netted its inaugural first team all-star, too.
Haley Gilfillan was named to the Canada West first all-star team on Tuesday after her dominant season in the middle led the Griffins into the playoffs.
It's the second time a Griffins player has been named to a Canada West all-star team, following Cassidy Kinsella's inclusion on the 2016-17 second team all-stars and it's the third time a Griffins women's volleyball player has been recognized by the conference after Mckenna Stevenson made the 2015-16 Canada West all-rookie team.
Gilfillan finished second in Canada West in blocks (102), fifth in service aces (42), 15th in points (295.0) and 22nd in kills (191).
"She's our leader," said MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs. "To be recognized and be on the first team is great because she's being recognized by the rest of the league. There can be no better recommendation than that of your peers.
"Gilf has an all-around game," he added. "She's a great offensive and defensive player. Blocking, she's among the best in the league, offensively, she has all the shots. Then she's strong defensively with excellent serving. She's always been dominant in aces. That's a pretty all-around game."
It's rare when a middle stays on the court when rotated into the back row, but Gilfillan proved she has the ability to do just that, producing 78 digs.
"Even at the end (in the playoffs last weekend) when we had to modify the lineup, I left her in in the back row," said Briggs. "Defensively, she's strong enough to play.
"There were lots of times during her career, we thought about moving her to the outside because you get more opportunities to swing, but she's just so good as an all-around middle. She knows the game, she studies it. Those are things you don't get all the time."
Gilfillan joins fellow middles Nyadholi Thokbuom of Mount Royal University and Gabrielle Attieh of UBC on the Canada West first all-star team, which is also made up of four outside hitters: Kory White of Alberta, Hillary Howe of Trinity Western, Kendra Finch of Thompson Rivers University and Emily Koshinski of Saskatchewan.
That follows an incredible season of the firsts for the MacEwan women's volleyball team, which includes their first Canada West playoff berth and first time hosting a post-season series after a program-best 17-7 record. They also had the first Griffin ever to be named a U SPORTS athlete of the week (Kylie Schubert) and a record-setting performance by libero Rachel Jorvina, who shattered the conference's mark for most digs in a match in Winnipeg last month.
"It's the buildup of that many years," said Briggs of Gilfillan establishing yet another program first. "I can't believe the number of people in the volleyball community who've reached out to our team and to myself, and all the support we got in the playoffs. That's a statement to the growth of the program and the huge impact those four graduates (Gilfillan, Stevenson, Lauren Holmes and Hailey Cornelis) have had on the program."