The 2019 finalists will be announced on April 23.
Click here for the Athletes of the Year from all 56 universities hoping to become one of the eight finalists.
2018-19 Female BLG Award Nominees (Jim Thompson Trophy)
- Sport: Volleyball
- Year of eligibility: 4
- Academic Program: Kinesiology
- Hometown: Bridgewater, N.S.
Courtney Baker made an immediate impact on the court in her first season with the Tigers.
A dynamic player, she is a talented setter with an excellent hitting percentage and an equally imposing and effective blocker who was ranked in the top 20 in most AUS statistical categories this year.
In her fourth season with the Tigers, she finished second in the conference in hitting efficiency (.368) and added 91 kills (1.63 kills per set), 22 service aces (0.39 service aces per set), and 130.0 points (2.3 points per set).
Baker appeared in 18 matches for the Tigers this year, leading them to a first-place finish in the regular season standings with an 18-2 record. She led them to their seventh straight AUS championship title, earning AUS championship MVP and all-star honours in the process.
In addition to being selected as the AUS MVP for the second year in a row, Baker earned a place as an AUS First Team All-Star for the fourth consecutive year. Her career accomplishments also include having been named to the 2015-16 AUS All-Rookie team in her first season with Dalhousie.
The Bridgewater, N.S., native is also a two-time U SPORTS First Team All-Canadian and has been named Dalhousie’s Class of ’55 Award winner as the Female Athlete of the Year the last two seasons.
The kinesiology major has twice been selected to Volleyball Canada’s senior team.
“Courtney is one of the most outstanding student-athletes that I have had the privilege to coach,” says head coach Rick Scott. “I am most proud of her ability to succeed on the court and in the classroom, while still finding time to volunteer in the community.”
“It's a huge honour to be nominated for this award,” said Baker. “There are so many fantastic athletes nominated and I'm extremely proud to be standing next to them on award night. While it is humbling to be recognized for my hard work, I also recognize that I couldn't have come this far without all of my coaches and teammates along the way, as well as the overwhelming support from my friends and family. Sport has always been extremely important to me. It has provided me with an amazing outlet to stay healthy, happy and to be a part of a team. I'm grateful for the opportunity to play volleyball at such a high level and I can't wait to see where it takes me in the future.”
- Sport: Basketball
- Year of Eligibility: 5
- Academic Program: Master’s in Economics
- Hometown: Quebec City, Que.
Fifth-year shooting guard Sarah-Jane Marois became the first Rouge et Or student-athlete to ever win the Nan Copp Women’s Basketball Player of the Year Award last season. It was also the first time since 1997 that this honour was awarded to a basketball player from the RSEQ conference.
A true pillar in the powerful Laval attack, Marois was a leader in several U SPORTS offensive categories. In 2018-19, the Quebec City native maintained the second-best free throw average in the country (.946), the eighth-best percentage of three-point shots (.410), and the 23rd best assist average per game (3.6). She also placed 33rd shooting from the floor (.448).
At the RSEQ level, Marois maintained the seventh-best points per game average (13.0) and came in seventh in blocks (0.5) and 11th in steals (1.1) per game.
A multiple-time U SPORTS Academic All-Canadian since she entered university in 2014, the master’s student in economics has had a brilliant career with the Rouge et Or, being selected on the first RSEQ All-Star team twice and on the second All-Star team once. She also received the RSEQ nominee in 2016 for the Tracy MacLeod Award for perseverance after returning to the game after a severe knee injury.
She ends her university career with a conference title and two silver medals on the national stage, captured in 2017 and in 2019. At the last U SPORTS championship, Marois was chosen as a championship All-Star, and was selected player of the game in wins over Ryerson in the quarterfinal and Ottawa in the semifinal.
“Overall, this was probably her best season since her arrival on the Laval team. It’s an individual honour that reflects the collective season, but Sarah-Jane has been consistent throughout the year,” said Rouge et Or head coach Guillaume Giroux. “She is fast, she puts a lot of pressure on the opponent, she is able to find the free players, and she has really improved her throw from behind the three-point line, making her an incredible player and a challenging opponent."
“This is an acknowledgment I wasn’t expecting!” said Marois. “I’m truly honoured to represent my program and the entire province. There are so many great student-athletes in the RSEQ, so it's extremely rewarding to be in this position. When I look at the winners of this award over the years, I’m impressed and I can hardly believe that I’m in that category now!”
Marois didn’t hesitate to underline the work of everyone around her to justify her success.
“I believe that our team’s success explains why I received this honour. I want to thank my family, my teammates, the coaches and the entire Rouge et Or program for this achievement. I also want to thank former head coach Linda Marquis. If she hadn’t recruited me at the end of my college career, I probably wouldn’t have played with the Rouge et Or. She played a big role in helping me become the player I am today.”
- Sport: Volleyball
- Year of Eligibility: 5
- Academic Program: Social Work
- Hometown: Scarborough, Ont.
Theanna Vernon has put together an incredible career at Ryerson, becoming one of the most dangerous middle hitters and formidable blockers in OUA and U SPORTS volleyball.
In her five seasons as a Ram, Vernon played in 310 regular season sets and graduates as the program’s all-time leader in points, blocks, hitting percentage, and service aces. She became just the second Ram to eclipse the 1,000 point plateau, finishing with 1,236.5 career points, while her 392 career blocks is over 180 blocks clear of the next best Ram.
As impressive as her 4.0 points per set career average is, Vernon was always able to elevate her game in the postseason, scoring an average of 4.5 points per set in the playoffs.
Vernon’s historical career doesn’t end with the record books. She became the first Ryerson women’s volleyball player to earn OUA conference Most Valuable Player honours as well as the first to be recognized as a U SPORTS First Team All-Canadian when she accomplished both feats this season.
This year, Vernon set a career-high with 100 total blocks and finished with 187 kills and 272.5 total points. She also led the nation with an efficient .410 hitting percentage.
The social work major was also a key player in Ryerson’s 2017-18 perfect 25-0 season which culminated in the team’s first OUA championship, first U SPORTS national title for Ryerson University in any sport and Vernon’s first of two straight nominations for U SPORTS Female of the Year.
Additionally, through the course of her career, Vernon was an OUA Rookie of the Year, a four-time OUA First-Team All-Star, and two-time U SPORTS All-Canadian. She also earned Tournament MVP honours at the 2017-18 U SPORTS national championship, and is a two-time winner of Ryerson’s H.H. Kerr Female Athlete of the Year award.
Prior to joining the Rams, Vernon played her club volleyball with the Toronto Diamonds where she won a bronze and silver medal at the 17U and 18U national championships, respectively. She was named an all-star at both club national championships.
“Theanna is an intense competitor who is always in control of her emotions,” said Rams head coach Dustin Reid. “The combination of her size, athleticism, skill, and will to win make her a truly dominant volleyball player. These abilities are only surpassed by her grace and determination off the court. Her growth as a student, teammate, and member of the community are what make me most proud of her as a coach.”
“Ryerson’s institutions and the athletic department have transformed the way I learn, prepare, perform, and reflect, both in the classroom and on the court. I know my future is very bright because of the foundation I have acquired here,” said Vernon. “As athletes, sometimes we push ourselves and don’t always see results, but to know that my hard work and dedication to volleyball, my team, and to Ryerson is being recognized is amazing. After graduation I would love the opportunity to play volleyball on the international stage. I’ll continue to believe in myself as it builds resilience during challenging times and pushes on to continue moving forward towards greatness. Beginning humbly and working consistently each year towards new goals has changed my outlook for the future.”
- Sport: Volleyball
- Year of Eligibility: 2
- Academic Program: Kinesiology
- Hometown: Surrey, B.C.
Kiera Van Ryk joins an impressive list of UBC Thunderbirds who have earned U SPORTS Female Athlete of the Year nominations.
The volleyball player from Surrey, B.C., is the ninth Thunderbird to represent Canada West and compete for U SPORTS Female Athlete of the Year honours in 11 seasons.
She hopes to add her name to UBC’s list of winners, which includes swimmer Annamay Pierse (2009), and volleyball standouts Liz Cordonier (2010) and Shanice Marcelle, a two-time nominee who triumphed in 2013.
In just her second year of university volleyball, Van Ryk reached U SPORTS supremacy individually and with her team. She led her Thunderbirds squad, seeded eighth at the national tournament, to an unprecedented championship. UBC beat top-ranked Trinity Western and No. 4 Dalhousie to reach the final against the sixth-seeded defending titlists Ryerson. The Thunderbirds came back from two sets down to claim the school’s record 12th U SPORTS banner. Van Ryk had 24 kills, three aces and 13 digs, all team highs, in the final.
She was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, after averaging 5.07 kills and 5.7 points per set in three matches. The championship MVP honour was her third major individual award of the 2018-19 season.
After an outstanding regular season in which she topped the entire country in kills (398), kills per set (4.52), points (489), points per set (5.6), service aces (68) and aces per set (0.77), Van Ryk was named the Canada West MVP and the Mary Lyons Award winner as the U SPORTS Player of the Year.
She became the first player to win the Mary Lyons Award in her second season of eligibility in 16 years.
Van Ryk’s 0.77 service aces per set established a Canada West record, while kills, kills per set, points, points per set, service aces, and aces per set statistics were all UBC records.
Last season, the UBC School of Kinesiology student won the Canada West and U SPORTS Rookie of the Year awards, while earning a place on the second All-Canadian team.
Then last summer, she played with Canada’s senior national team, earning best server honours at the XVII NORCECA Pan American Cup, leading the squad to a bronze medal - its second-ever podium finish at the event. Van Ryk then appeared at the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship in Japan.
“For her to accomplish what she has as a second-year player is so impressive,” remarks UBC head coach Doug Reimer. “Her high-end is incredible and I've been impressed with her development over the season in terms of her consistency of play. Beyond her velocity and skill in attacking and serving, she works so hard and contributes so much defensively, and in her passing as well. I'm very happy for Kiera, without question she's a very impressive player and has carried a heavy load for us this season."
“Being a part of sports my whole life has taught me many life lessons and shaped me into the woman I am today,” reflects Van Ryk. “A key lesson I have learned is the value in embracing struggle and adversity, and learning how to overcome these trials. Through athletics I have learned the importance of teamwork. Teamwork comes with so many different pieces of the puzzle and teaches many life-long traits. Some of which are responsibility, leadership, perseverance, dedication and resilience.
“An aspiration for my future is to be a part of the Canadian Women’s Volleyball National Team and help lead the team to the Olympics. I also aspire to encourage young athletes to striving for excellence in everything they do. If I was to win the Athlete of the Year award it would be a testament to a collective effort of all my coaches, teammates, friends and family who have pushed me to be the athlete and person I am today.”
2018-19 Male BLG Award Nominees (Doug Mitchell Trophy):
- Sport: Hockey
- Year of Eligibility: 4
- Academic Program: Business Administration
- Hometown: Cap d’Espoir, Que.
Chris Clapperton, or Clappy, to his friends, had a breakout season for the UNB Reds men’s hockey team in the 2018-19 season.
He led all scorers in Atlantic University Sport, earning conference MVP honours and 1st Team All-Canadian status, helping the Reds capture the AUS regular season and playoff championships.
The quick-skating and crafty forward was named a University Cup All-Star as UNB captured the 2019 national championship, their third in four years and eighth in school history.
Clapperton’s season should be considered more impressive, given the fact it came less than a year after being knocked out of the Reds lineup for seven games with a concussion.
Clapperton, who graduates in 2019 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, led the country in assists and was second in the country in plus-minus, at +27. He was also selected to the U SPORTS All-Stars, and faced the national junior team prospects in a three-game series, in Victoria, B.C., in December.
His final season as a Red saw Clapperton capture the James Downey Shield, awarded to UNB’s top male athlete of the year.
In his time at UNB, Clapperton has been part of three national championship teams, winning the University Cup in 2016, 2017 and 2019. In 2018, UNB earned the bronze medal at the national championship tournament.
In late March of 2019, he signed a one-year contract with the Belleville Senators, of the American Hockey League. He was also selected in the fifth round of the NHL draft, 122nd overall, by the Florida Panthers.
“Chris has been a difference-maker with us from his first year. That escalated this year as he led the AUS in scoring, his first scoring championship since minor hockey. He’s an impact player, and he was recognized as such, being named as the Atlantic conference MVP,” said UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall. “He’s become much more consistent and he’s able to find ways to be more successful and more productive. He’s faster too, he’s developed more of an offensive prowess, he can really make plays. Before, he might’ve been considered just a scorer, but he’s added to his game with his passing ability.”
“I’ve met a lot of good people that motivate me to keep pushing to get better. I’ve grown my character with all the obstacles that have come my way as an athlete,” said Clapperton. “I’ve had teammates who are great leaders, and I’ve learned from them. It’s not always easy as a high-performance athlete, but you have to stay positive at all times, whether in sports or in your everyday life.
Winning this award would be an unbelievable accomplishment. There are so many great student-athletes in all sport. They work so hard to have success. Just the fact I’m being considered at this level is an honour and I’m grateful.”
- Sport: Football
- Year of Eligibility: 4
- Academic Program: Teaching Physical education and health
- Hometown: Montreal, Que.
The name of Mathieu Betts will remain forever etched in the memory of football fans, not only at Université Laval, but across Canada.
The fourth-year defensive end has been named Canada’s most outstanding lineman for a third straight year for the 2018 season.
In so doing, the Montreal native becomes the first player in history to win the J.P. Metras Trophy three times, the first football player to win four major U SPORTS awards in his career (he was named Rookie of the Year in 2015) and the second to claim the same national honour three times in a row, after quarterback Chris Flynn from Saint Mary's, who received the Hec Crighton Trophy back-to-back from 1988 to 1990.
With nine sacks in just six regular-season games last fall, Betts dominated the RSEQ for the fourth time in as many years, setting an RSEQ record with 35.5 career sacks.
Unsurprisingly, his nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss, both of which led the nation, earned him a spot on the U SPORTS All-Canadian team for a fourth straight season.
Destined for a professional career, the student in physical education and health made a total of 74.5 tackles in four seasons, including 45 for losses. He also forced five fumbles.
Considered the best prospect for the next Canadian Football League draft, Betts was named MVP of the U SPORTS Valero East-West Bowl in May 2018, before being invited to the prestigious East-West Shrine Game last January, an event gathering player prospects for the NFL.
Named male student-athlete of the Rouge et Or for the last three years, Betts was also an RSEQ representative for the Athlete of the Year Awards in 2017. He was also an Academic All-Canadian in 2017-18.
In four seasons with the Rouge et Or, Betts won three Dunsmore Cups, two Vanier Cups, two Uteck Bowls and a Mitchell Bowl.
“Mathieu is dominant, period. He’s so explosive that he's able to change the outcome of a game on his own, and he showed that again this year,” said Rouge et Or head coach Glen Constantin. “Plus, he's an excellent teammate; humble, he supports all the guys around him and makes the team atmosphere really enjoyable. He makes his teammates better through his attitude and play.”
“Just being nominated is a great way to finish my four years with the Rouge et Or,” said Betts. “It's hard to put in words. Just being able to stand out in my sport is already a great achievement. To do it on my varsity team, even more so. Finally, to be able to stand out provincially and nationally… that is something I'm very proud of.”
This is a second nomination for Mathieu Betts, who received the same honour in 2016.
“It represents the work of many people over four years. Starting with my head coach Glen Constantin who gave me the chance to grow in this program. Both he and the defensive coordinator Marc Fortier did a good job of helping me improve and also of putting me in favourable situations to do well on the field. All my teammates had an impact one way or another. Obviously, I think of my father, my mother and my girlfriend who have always supported me. As a student-athlete, we don’t always know who is working behind the scenes so that we can evolve in our respective sport, but I know that there are many people who support us and work to make our lives easier at Université Laval, and I can’t thank them enough.”
- University of Guelph
- Sport: Men’s Soccer
- Year of eligibility: 4
- Academic Program: Management Economics and Finance
- Hometown: Burlington, Ont.
On Nov. 7, Jace Kotsopoulos became just the second Guelph Gryphon in school history to be named national Player of the Year in men's soccer. Kotsopoulos, who joins former Gryphon Robbie Murphy (2011) as the only other University of Guelph product to take home the Joe Johnson Memorial Trophy as the U SPORTS Player of the Year in men's soccer, once again established himself as one of the most dangerous players in all of U SPORTS.
Whenever Kotsopoulos got a touch on the ball, the fourth-year Guelph Gryphons striker induced panic in defenders and goalkeepers all-around the OUA and U SPORTS. Kotsopoulos had a 2018 season to remember, finishing second in U SPORTS in goals with 15, while also eclipsing the University of Guelph's all-time goals record.
The Guelph hit man's 15 goals paced the OUA this season, with many coming at crucial moments to either tie or win a match. The majority of those 15 came in a memorable September when Kotsopoulos was named U SPORTS Male Athlete of the Month. The Burlington native scored a brace in five of his seven matches that month and also became the University of Guelph men's all-time leading scorer when he bagged both goals in a 2-0 win over McMaster on Sept. 9.
Kotsopoulos had 48 goals to that point, needing one to tie Murphy, Guelph's all-time leader, at 49. He got it in the 75th minute, heading a ball home from inside the area. But Kotsopoulos wasn't done. He established the new school record six minutes later when he took a through ball from teammate Jon Amoo, held off a defender on his shoulder, and coolly finished with his left foot into the bottom corner of the McMaster net. He went on to score six more goals the rest of the season to finish in top spot in school history with 56.
During Kotsopoulos’ third season of U SPORTS soccer (2017-18), he suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee. Despite the injury, which cost him the majority of his third season as a Gryphon, he still managed to earn a U SPORTS Second Team All-Canadian nod after scoring 10 goals through the first nine games of the season. Kotsopoulos suffered the knee injury during the 10th game of the season and was unable to return until the regular season finale.
Following his outstanding 2018 season, Kotsopoulos was selected third overall in the inaugural Canadian Premier League Draft with Hamilton-based Forge F.C. using their first pick to select the U SPORTS star.
“Jace had an amazing season, breaking the all-time Gryphon goal scoring record, leading the OUA in scoring and coming second in Canada," said Gryphons head coach Keith Mason. "But above all this, Jace is a tremendous individual, humble, talented, hardworking, and a leader. It is a pleasure to coach such a player with these qualities day in day out. He is fully deserving of this special award, but I am sure Jace would be the first to admit he could not have done it without the fantastic support, on and off the field, from his teammates."
“When you look across the OUA, there are so many great athletes from so many different sports who are deserving of this award. To be put forward as the nominee from our conference is a privilege and an honour,” said Kotsopoulos. “There's no question in my mind that competing in U SPORTS over the last four years has helped me to develop into a better player, both on and off the field. My academic obligations have taught me how to effectively balance my responsibilities away from the pitch.
The biggest key for me is never getting complacent. Since arriving at Guelph as a freshman, I’ve always tried to pride myself on working hard to improve my skills each and every day in training. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by some great teammates and have been able to learn from a great coach in Keith Mason.”
- Sport: Football
- Year of Eligibility: 4th
- Academic Program: Economics
- Hometown: Pointe Claire, Que.
After learning from CFL greats Dave Dickenson and Bo Levi Mitchell during his time in Calgary Stampeders camp las spring, Sinagra, a fourth-year arts student from Pointe Claire, Que., proceeded to have one of the best seasons in U SPORTS football history.
His 3,233 passing yards set a new U SPORTS record as he led the Dinos to a perfect 8-0 season and the most potent offence in the nation, averaging 570.9 yards per game. Sinagra ranked second in the nation in passing touchdowns this season with 23 and led the conference with a passer rating of 126.
Training under the tutelage of the likes of former Hec Crighton-winning quarterbacks Erik Glavic (2007) and Andrew Buckley (2014 and 2015) – who are now coaching with the Dinos – Sinagra has now joined his mentors as a Hec Crighton winner, marking the fifth consecutive season a CW player has taken home Canadian university's biggest individual prize.
The 2018 season was Adam’s second full campaign as the Dinos’ starter, though he did see action in relief in the 2016 season, earning Hardy Cup MVP honours that year as the Dinos advanced to the Vanier Cup. He joined the Dinos after two seasons of CEGEP football at John Abbott College.
Adam's confidence level and his leadership have really emerged this season. It's something we didn't see a lot of in his first two years where he was more of a quiet leader. Now, he says the right things at the right time and shares the information with his receivers and line," said Dinos head coach Wayne Harris Jr. "He learned what it's like to prepare as a professional – the way he watches film, makes notes in meetings on our systems and our opponents has significantly changed. Canada West has its share of fast guys, but it's nothing like the speed of the CFL and that experience really slowed things down for him and has helped with those reads and adjustments. Everything he has learned has helped him be a better quarterback.
“This nomination is truly humbling experience and a great honour,” said Sinagra. “I have been surrounded by outstanding people who have afforded me the opportunity to learn and develop, without whom this never would have been possible.
“It has taught me the importance of; work ethic, resilience, accountability, time management, and leadership. It has provided me an opportunity to improve myself with a real-world education, while playing the sport I love. The success one reaches in school or sports doesn’t come easy, and there is a lot to say about how someone handles failure. I think being able manage the highs and lows and learn from them is the greatest teacher you can have, and that I believe is where a strong character is formed.”