Bereziuk named to U SPORTS second team all-stars in a historic first for the Griffins WVB program

Bereziuk named to U SPORTS second team all-stars in a historic first for the Griffins WVB program

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

HAMILTON, Ont. – In a historic moment, Mariah Bereziuk became the first Griffins women's volleyball player to make a U SPORTS all-star team when she was named to the second team at the national championship banquet on Wednesday night.

The honour follows her selection to the Canada West first all-star team last month.

"I was really surprised," said the veteran outside hitter, who attended the ceremony in Hamilton, Ont. where the U SPORTS women's volleyball nationals are being held. "I had no idea that was coming. It's a really cool accomplishment to have, especially to end my career."

She was so surprised that head coach Chris Wandler had to repeat himself when he initially phoned to tell her the news.

"It's extremely exciting, No. 1, for her," he said. "When I told her, she was a little in disbelief. I had to tell her a couple of times that she got it. It's the first time in MacEwan women's volleyball history that this has been awarded to an athlete, so I'm extremely proud of her."

Indeed, the best previous awards result for a Griffins women's volleyball student-athlete was when Haley Gilfillan made the Canada West first all-star team in 2019-20. 

Mariah Bereziuk poses with her award after being announced as a member of the U SPORTS second all-star team on Wednesday night in Hamilton, Ont. (Chris Wandler photo).

Bereziuk joins UFV's Gabrielle Attieh, UBC's Lucy Borowski, Alberta's Lauryn Tremblay, McMaster's Jenna Woock, Toronto's Julia Murmann and Acadia's Charlotte Dean on the U SPORTS second all-star team.

Manitoba's Raya Surinx, who was also named U SPORTS player of the year, Trinity Western's Kaylee Plouffe, Queen's Hannah Duchesneau, Brock's Sara Rohr, Montréal's Olympe Desmedt, Sherbrooke's Emma Bergeron and Saint Mary's Olivia Bell were named to the U SPORTS first team.

Wandler noted it's huge for the program to have a player crack the U SPORTS all-stars, which is a testament to not only Bereziuk's talent, but to the team's success, as well.

"You don't get that award alone, so I'm extremely proud of the group for helping propel her to get to that spot," he said. "All these individual awards are great, but it takes a group effort. I'm really proud of her and the rest of the group, for sure."

Bereziuk led a strong team effort in 2023-24 as the Griffins qualified for the Canada West playoffs for the first time in four years. Her 3.95 kills/set mark was second in the conference and third in the country, while her 316 kills tied for third in both.

Beyond her prolific offensive production, Wandler noted she also became a complete player in this, her final season at MacEwan.

"We set out some goals at the very beginning of the year and I remember talking to Mariah about what she wanted to do individually to help the group," he said. "No. 1, she wanted to be a full six-rotation player, wanted to be relied on for her passing. We knew where her strengths were – her strengths were at the net, obviously. 

"She did a lot of work. There were times where a little bit of self-doubt (crept into) her passing. But with a little bit of confidence and success, it really elevated her overall game, I thought. That success helped her get a little bit more confidence in the front court. 

"She's got a tremendous arm and some tremendous power in that frame of hers."

Bereziuk set program records for best points/set average in a CW season (4.7) and most points in a CW match (28.0), while also tying the mark for most kills in a CW contest when she had 25 against Trinity Western on Feb. 10.

She was quick to thank her teammates for their contributions in helping her reach her full potential.

"I think as a team we finally reached our goal and how we were working together allowed us to get to this level," said Bereziuk. "I think building over the last three years has really helped with that."

Individually, the past few years were also instrumental in shaping the Boyle, Alta. product into a star. She grew and improved from a little-used rookie to one of the most impactful players in the country, which is a remarkable transformation for a small-town athlete who went to a K-12 school with less than 100 kids.

"It comes from a lot of work," said Wandler. "It's her fifth year of playing – with the COVID year (a lost season). She put in a lot of work to get here. I think it's just not a year's breadth of work, it's four to five years. 

"Sometimes it just takes athletes that long to show how truly great they are and that's what she did."

Mariah Bereziuk and Griffins head coach Chris Wandler pose following the U SPORTS women's volleyball awards ceremony in Hamilton, Ont. on Wednesday night.