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Blazers Close Out their 2023/24 Seasons with the Annual Green & Gold Banquet

Blazers Women's Volleyball were one of two MCAC Champion teams this season, and represented Manitoba at the CCAA Nationals for the first time in program history. Blazers Women's Volleyball were one of two MCAC Champion teams this season, and represented Manitoba at the CCAA Nationals for the first time in program history.

The dust has settled on the 2023/24 Blazers Athletics season, which gave cause for celebration as the annual Green & Gold Awards were handed out on Friday night in the Great Hall on the campus of Canadian Mennonite University. Below is a summary of the season that was, including all of our award winners and team accomplishments from the season.

While the awards ceremony are largely to honour personal academic and athletic achievements of individuals in all of the Blazers programs, team accomplishments from the season shouldn't go unnoticed. Blazers teams made the MCAC championship game in five of a possible eight sports (men's and women's volleyball, men's and women's basketball, and men's futsal), with two of those teams taking home the provincial title! For women's volleyball, it was their first championship win since 2020, the second for head coach Jayme Menzies, and the first since the MCAC fully joined the CCAA, leading to the first CCAA Women's Volleyball National Championships berth for the program. For men's basketball, it was the first title since 2017 and the first under head coach Scott Martin, who was named MCAC Coach of the Year for men's basketball prior to the championship weekend.

Plenty of MCAC and CCAA accolades were recognized throughout the year as well, best summarized in the list below:

Men's Soccer

  • Victor Hugo Gomes de Abreu - MCAC All-Conference selection & CCAA All-Canadian
  • Humayun Umar - MCAC All-Conference selection
  • Daunte Byfield - MCAC True Sport Team selection

Women's Soccer

  • Ayesha Umar - MCAC All-Conference selection & CCAA All-Canadian
  • Julia Ignagni - MCAC All-Conference selection
  • Clarissa Unger - MCAC True Sport Team selection

Men's Volleyball

  • Cameron Gayleard - MCAC All-Conference selection, MCAC Player of the Year & CCAA All-Canadian
  • Brayden Griffith - MCAC All-Conference selection
  • Markus Martens - MCAC All-Conference selection
  • Joel Heppner - MCAC True Sport Team selection
  • Don Dulder - MCAC Men's Volleyball Coach of the Year

Women's Volleyball

  • Halle Meisner - MCAC All-Conference selection
  • Layla Reichert - MCAC Championship MVP
  • Julia Sawatzky - MCAC True Sport Team selection

Men's Basketball

  • Isaiah Cole - MCAC & NIAC All-Conference selection & MCAC Championship MVP
  • Daniel Cameron - MCAC & NIAC All-Conference selection
  • Braeden Fernandez - MCAC & NIAC All-Conference selection & MCAC True Sport Team selection
  • Scott Martin - MCAC & NIAC Men's Basketball Coach of the Year

Women's Basketball

  • Briana Ehrmantraut - MCAC & NIAC All-Conference selection & MCAC & NIAC Player of the Year
  • Anna Pyne - MCAC & NIAC All-Conference selection
  • Oluwanifemi Gbadamosi - NIAC All-Conference selection
  • Reyna Reyes - MCAC True Sport Team selection

Men's Futsal

  • Victor Hugo Gomes de Abreu - MCAC All-Conference selection
  • Jordyn Calvert - MCAC True Sport Team selection
  • Anderson Pereira - MCAC Men's Futsal Coach of the Year

Women's Futsal

  • Julia Ignagni - MCAC All-Conference selection
  • Leila Varias - MCAC True Sport Team selection

The banquet awards kicked off by highlighting the academic achievements of our athletes. This year an incredible total of 57 Blazer athletes earned a 3.5 GPA or higher in the fall term, enough for honour roll status at CMU and a Scholar Athlete Award certificate. For the CCAA sports of volleyball and soccer, scholar athlete recipients are eligible to receive CCAA National Scholar status by maintaining an honour roll status for semesters of participation, a list that will come out later in the summer.

For the second year, Blazers Athletics also recognized the top academic from each team based on GPA from the fall term, as well as the top overall among Blazers student-athletes. This year's scholar winners included from men's basketball Matthew Brenton and Derek Neufeld, from women's basketball Victoria Welsh and Reyna Reyes, from men's volleyball Adrian Bernardo, from women's volleyball Annika Kornelsen, from men's soccer Aaron Doerksen, and from women's soccer and overal Blazer Medal winner Laurel Smith. Each of these students received a small gift along with their Scholar Athlete Award certificate.

Following the meal, the team awards were presented, which highlighted from each team a Most Valuable Player selection, a Rookie of the Year selection, and a third award of the head coach's choice.

Blazers Men's Soccer began the year with a perfect 3-0 pre-season in Alberta and faced the Brandon Bobcats in both the MCAC soccer semi-final as well as the futsal semi-final, falling short in their first attempt, but besting their Brandon rivals to make the finals for futsal earlier in March. A solid crop of rookies was led by Ilyas Umar, who took home Rookie of the Year hardware after making an impact both in the outdoor and indoor portions of the season. After coming back from injury to finish the outdoor season, then switching roles midway through the futsal schedule, last year's rookie of the year Noah Schindel was named Defender of the Year for the program. In the comeback story of the season, Victor Hugo Gomes de Abreu suffered what many thought would be a season-ending injury midway through the outdoor season, but following months of hard work off the field he made a triumphant return in the latter half of the futsal season and helped carry his team to the finals, earning him the soccer Most Valuable Player award. In a comeback story of different sorts, the men's futsal Most Valuable Player award went to returning futsal maestro Matheus Moreno, who rejoined the squad for the indoor season.

It was a building year for Blazers Women's Soccer, who made strides on the field as well as in terms of team chemistry and cohesiveness. Offseason signing Leila Varias took home Rookie of the Year honours after demonstrating skill, hard work, and an infectious attitude on the pitch and court throughout the year. Graduating student-athlete Ezri Trump was awarded the Heart & Hustle Award for her willingness to leave everything on the field, no matter where she slotted into the lineup. The team's leader from the back line Cal Peden took home Most Valuable Player honours for the outdoor season, while her counterpart on defence Julia Ignagni was named Most Valuable Player for the futsal season.

In a season filled with records, Blazers Men's Volleyball fell just short of their goal of reaching another CCAA National Championships, after owning a perfect first half record, and a 23-2 final record, with the second loss coming in the MCAC Championship game. Owning the best record in the country, and bringing the MCAC to new heights with a record ranking of 7th in the CCAA National Rankings set new heights for the program under the leadership of MCAC Men's Volleyball Coach of the Year Don Dulder, that also marked the first time CMU held an MCAC Player of the Year that could be nominated for CCAA Player of the Year, Cameron Gayleard. Ryan Bilous was the one true rookie to suit up for the Blazers this season, but he made his impact felt, immediately taking on a leadership role and earning himself Rookie of the Year honours. In a season where the team lost one of its captains due to injury midway through the campaign, fourth-year middle and co-captain Joshua Werbiski stepped up in a big way, and earned himself a Leadership Award for his service to the program. Arguably the Blazers' biggest off-season signing, Brayden Griffith lived up to the billing, willing the team to many victories throughout the year, and was named Most Valuable Player in his homecoming season.

For the first time in Women's Volleyball program history, the Blazers made an appearance at the CCAA National Championships in Red Deer Alberta, following their massive upset win in the MCAC Finals over the undefeated home side Providence Pilots. A key to success for the team was setter Chelsea Stewner, who was forced into full-time action after returning setter Paige Wright got injured in the first game after the break. The rookie kept the team steady through all the ups and downs of an incredible season and playoff run, earning herself Rookie of the Year honours. For the second consecutive year, Annika Kornelsen earned herself the Most Improved Player award after a continued rise in dominance in the middle court amongst MCAC players. In a season that saw many lineup changes along the way, veteran outside Halle Meisner was one constant on the court whether on the right or left side, and the All-Conference selection was named Most Valuable Player for the team.

Blazers Men's Basketball has featured in the MCAC Finals every year since the pandemic season, and finally broke through this year with their first championship win since 2017. After a disappointing semi-final loss to Providence in the NIAC Final Fours, Coach of the Year Scott Martin drew up a gameplan for the MCAC championship and the team executed it to perfection, capturing the title in a game that was never really in question. A number of Blazer rookies put their mark on the team this year, but Andrew Bruin rose above the rest, having been named MCAC Athlete of the week and CMU's Athlete of the Month during the season, and was named Rookie of the Year for the team. A return to CMU after a season-ending injury last year sidelined Isaiah Cole made him perfect for the Comeback Player Award. The double NIAC and MCAC All-Conference selection was also named Championship MVP in the team's win and was an ustoppable force throughout the contest. CMU's rookie of the year last season continued his dominance this year once again dominating the boards. In addition to his NIAC and MCAC All-Conference selections, Daniel Cameron was named the team's Most Valuable Player.

It was a transitional season for Blazers Women's Basketball who saw their reign as five-time MCAC champions come to a halt in a hard-fought battle with the Pilots in the title game. The team faced Providence in both the MCAC and NIAC Finals, so the season was undoubtedly still a success, with the squad knocking off the reigning NIAC champions Trinity Lions during their playoff run. New faces on the team were plentiful, but the most impactful of them all was Betty Girmay, who took home Rookie of the Year honours and looks to have a bright future ahead of her. Having already received MCAC True Sport Team recognition, Reyna Reyes showed us once again her love for the game and her team-first attitude receiving the Leadership Award for women's basketball. An integral part of the team's backcourt during her time at CMU, dual All-Conference selection Anna Pyne was named Most Valuable Player for her team in her final season in Green and Gold.

The evening wrapped up with the major awards; female and male overall rookies of the year, female and male overall athletes of the year, and the Trailblazer Award given to a student-athlete who has gone above-and-beyond in their commitment to community service and leadership away from the court or pitch.

This year's Female and Male Rookies of the Year were both award winners on their respective teams, having come onto competitive squads and made an immediate impact. For Chelsea Stewner of women's volleyball, it was her ability to shine under the bright lights after being thrust into the spotlight midway through the season that was the ultimate decision-point to be awarded Female Rookie of the Year. Coming into the season, this year's Male Rookie of the Year told Blazers Athletics that he has the ability to be a difference-maker in big games, and that's exactly what he did, helping to bring home a championship for Blazers men's basketball. A force on the boards all season, Andrew Bruin earned himself the 2023/24 honour of top rookie in his class.

Both NIAC and MCAC Player of the Year awards were far too much to ignore, as Briana Ehrmantraut continued her dominance in the league this season, topping the conference in most offensive statistical categories. Her competition routinely drew up gameplans just to stop her, which is a large part why she earned herself 2023/24 Female Athlete of the Year honours. The Male Athlete of the Year award was a tight race that could have gone any number of ways, but in the end it was the comeback story of the season that led Blazers Athletics to choose Victor Hugo Gomes de Abreu as the Male Athlete of the Year in his final year at CMU. Despite missing the second half of the outdoor season, and the first half of the futsal season, Abreu's dominance was unmistakeable to both his teammates and the league, as he garnered All-Conference status in both disciplines, and became CMU's second-ever CCAA All-Canadian, joined by Ayesha Umar and Cameron Gayleard this year with that distinction.

The Trailblazer Award has been a longstanding tradition at the Green and Golds, and this year's winner is a champion for sustainability on campus, and a leader in the Sanctoral Cycle on-campus bike co-op that aids commuters with bike repairs and helps them overcome commuting challenges. As a volunteer with Sanctoral Cycle, women's soccer's Tai Linklater has started a bike share program alongside other sustainability initiatives, all during her free time away from the classroom or pitch, which makes her very deserving of the award.

Thanks to all our student-athletes, coaches, athletic therapists, sponsors, and fans for all their hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm this year. As always we are already looking forward to next season and the success stories that will undoubtedly come with it!

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