Speijer, Wayling land Heat's top awards
Like so many of their peers in the UBC Okanagan varsity athletics program, Nate Speijer and Kendra Wayling thoroughly embraced the chance to compete at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level for the first time.
The challenge clearly brought out the best in both Heat volleyball players, as Speijer and Wayling were named Tuesday as UBCO's Student Athletes of the year.
Speijer, the winner of the male award and a fourth-year outside hitter, led the Heat to an improbable playoff berth in its first season of Canada West competition.
A Canada West all-star, the 6-foot-4 Penticton product was fifth in the country in kills per set, sixth in points per set, and fifth in total attacks.
For Speijer, nothing was more satisfying than proving the Heat (8-12) could compete at the highest level of varsity sports in the country.
"We came in and everyone in the league was just looking at us as the new kids on the block, someone else to beat up on, just an easy win," said Speijer, who also won the male award for the 2009-10 season.
"We had to prove to a lot of teams that we weren't just there to be there. We made teams play their best to beat us, and we were able to take some games off team that maybe we shouldn't have. To have a year like we did takes a huge weight off our shoulders, knowing we really can compete."
The other male athlete nominees were: Cody Bell (golf), Yassine Ghomari (basketball), and Spencer Brown (soccer).
Kendra Wayling was named winner of the Heat's top female award in large part for both her versatility and skill on the court, and her excellence in the classroom.
The third-year middle blocker from Castlegar played every conceivable role for the Heat this past season, including setter for three league matches, a position she had never once played before in her career.
Wayling was instrumental in leading the UBCO women to six wins in their maiden voyage in Canada West.
"It's been amazing, it's the most fun year I've ever had," said Wayling. "This level of competition is just so enjoyable to compete at. We've had a great year as a team bonding and growing together, it's been awesome."
While her contributions to the Heat may not have stood out statistically, head coach Steve Manuel said Wayling's value is measured in so many other ways.
"She played a ton of different roles, she was our floor captain, she held her own in this league as a middle blocker, giving up three, four, six inches to opponents," said Manuel. "When we needed her in other places, she stepped in a did a great job.
"Kendra is probably the best, pure all-around athlete I've ever coached. We couldn't take her off the floor this year."
The other nominees were: Roslyn Huber (basketball), Alana Kent (golf), and Sabrina Gasparac (soccer).
The following are the Heat's individual team award winners:
• Men’s Soccer
Coaches' Awards—Thomas Simkins and Dustin Luck
• Women's soccer
Rookie of the year—Kirtsen Dodds
• Men's basketball
Top rookie—Bret Macdonald
Best defensive player—Ed Dane Medi
• Women's basketball
Rookie of the year—Emily Kanester
Coaches' award—Madison Kaneda
• Men's volleyball
Rookie of the year—Jeremy Fostvelt
Most improved—Leo Schober
Rob Sivacoe—Riley McFarland
• Women's volleyball
Rookie of the year—Katy Klomps
Coaches' Award—Jill Festival
Men's MVP—Cody Bell
Women's MVP—Alana Kent
Leadership award—Harvey Hubball
The Heat athletic department also held its first annual Big Block induction ceremony on Tuesday night, following in the footsteps of a longstanding tradition at UBC Vancouver.
Sixty-six players, five coaches and six builders with two of more years of service at UBCO were installed in the alumni club, with those in attendance being presented with rings.