Photo/Story Credit: Jessica Dempsey - Cranbrook Townsman
Volleyball players swapped out their jerseys for dresses and suits as the College of the Rockies held their 2018-19 Avalanche Athletics Award Banquet.
Both the men's and women's Avalanche volleyball squads recognized player achievements throughout the season.
• Most Improved Player: Brooke Lightburn and Quinn Grist
• Rookie of the Year: Claire Sheppard, Mark Armstrong and Gustavo Bertoli
• Avalanche Award: Taylor Whittall and Alex Avery
• Most Valuable Player: Taylor Whittall and Caleb Peters
Throughout the season the COTR hosted the PACWEST Volleyball Championships this year, that saw both Avalanche teams lose in the quarter-finals.
It was a tough year for both teams, with the men's squad going 8-16 on the season, including a 4-0 road trip, which was the first time the college has swept on the road.
The team is already hard at work to prepare for next season, and middle blocker Alex Avery is excited to see what's in store.
"Cisco [Farrero] has done an unreal job recruiting so far — it's only going to get better. I'm just excited to have some success with the team. We definitely improved from last year, and it will be fun to win more games and go chase that conference championship," he said.
Avery won the Avalanche Award for the men's team and says it was nice to be recognized.
"It was an exciting award," he said. "I put a lot of time and effort into the program, and I love it here. It's nice to be recognized.
Next season, will be Avery's fourth with the Avalanche, and he says working on his leadership skills will be vital.
"I'm going to be in an even more senior role than I was now. I and Matt Cespedes will be the two fourth years on the team, and with so many rookies and second years next year they will be looking up to us a lot, so we will be those guys to lean on. Leadership is going to be really big to help take us to the next level," he said.
The women's team finished the season 4-20 and had battled many injuries from start to finish.
This is the second season outside hitter Taylor Whittall has been on the Avalanche team and she tok home two awards. One of those awards being the Avalanche aware, which meant a lot to her to win.
"Alexa Koshman won it last year, and she was my idol on the team last year, so I was striving for it this year," said Whittall.
Whittall finished the 2018-19 regular season with 181 digs, 26 blocks and 174 kills. She was also been named the most valuable player for the team.
"I worked really hard this season," she said. "There's some tough competition on the team, and I appreciate everything. I couldn't have done it without the girls around me."
Looking ahead toward next season, Whittall says she is ready to work out a lot and get mentally prepared and is excited for what lies ahead.
"I'm really looking forward to the girls that are coming in. I think they will be great assets to the team. We have some strong players coming back from this season, so I think it will be a really great year," she said.
There were two graduating athletes on the Avalanche squads, including outside hitter/ setter Mikaela Pushor, who has been with the women's team for three years.
She will go down in the history books at the college, as she ranks second in overall kill leaders at COTR, with 454 kills, fifth in career block leaders with 92, fourth in career ace leaders with 64 and second in career total offence with 610.
"It's definitely bittersweet," said Pushor. "I'm sad I'm done my volleyball career, but I'm really excited to move forward with my life and get into a career that I love."
A last piece of advice she had for players coming in was to take advantage of all volleyball had to offer.
"Enjoy your time on the court, don't take it for granted. Now that I'm done I wish I would have worked harder in some practices that I didn't want to be there, but savor every moment and don't take it for granted," said Pushor.
Pushor has two more years left in her education, where she will finish at a university as she pursues social work.
The men's team also had a lone graduating athlete. Chris Dzioba spent four years representing the Avalanche on the court.
Along with being a leader in the dressing room, the setter finished his regular season career with the team with a total of 524 assists, 89 digs and 64 points.
"It's interesting moving on," he said. "COTR has been a big part of my life. It's sad to move on, but I'm excited about the future."
Throughout his career donning the Avalanche sweater, Dzioba says he really grew as a person.
"Becoming confident in who I am, and becoming a leader in the community," he said.
Dzioba will be heading to the University of Victoria to finish his business degree.
Other awards given out throughout the night included the First Year Student-Athlete Award to Mark Armstrong, and eight players receiving the College of the Rockies Academic Excellence.
A couple of players were also recognized by the PACWEST.
• PACWEST Academic Excellence: Alex Avery and Mark Armstrong
• First Team All-Star: Caleb Peters
• Second Team All-Star: Taylor Whittall
• Men's All-Rookie Team: Caleb Peters and Mark Armstrong