DaLeaka Menin, a fourth-year prop from the University of Calgary, was named the U Sports player of the year in women’s rugby, Wednesday night. Menin, a native of Vulcan, Alta., becomes the first Dinos player to take home national MVP honours. Other winners announced during the All-Canadian Banquet held at the Harbour Cente Hotel & Suites were UBC flyhalf MacKenzie Carson, who was named rookie of the year; Acadia wing Kelsey Brumm, who received the Student-Athlete Community Service Award; and Calgary head coach Simon Chi.
The 2016 CIS championship kicks off Thursday at the University of Victoria’s Wallace Field and concludes on Sunday with the gold-medal final at 3 p.m. PT.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: DaLeaka, Menin, Calgary
Two-time All-Canadian DaLeaka Menin acts as co-captain for the undefeated University of Calgary Dinos women's rugby team. In 2013, Menin was named CIS Rookie of the Year and has been a key component to the Dinos' success ever since.
Menin is arguably one of the top front row players in the country. Her unique skill set allows her to play many different styles of rugby. While she prefers to lead by example, DaLeaka is one of the integral drivers of the Dinos culture of hard work and commitment both on and off the field.
The Vulcan, Alta. native scored a try in the Dinos' final three regular season games, as well as one in the Canada West finals and is also a key factor on defence for the Dinos. Her combination of athleticism as well as her understanding of the game puts her in a class all by herself. She has the strength and power to be a dominant scrummager, as well as the skills and intuition to be a legitimate attacking threat as a ball carrier and playmaker.
This is her first time being named U Sports MVP in her four-year U Sports career, and the first time for an athlete from the Dinos women’s rugby program.
“Our setpiece is a cornerstone of our success this season and DaLeaka is a big reason we are so dominant," said Dinos head coach Simon Chi. “This season she has raised the bar in Canada West rugby by bringing international quality performances to every game she has played. Her humble demeanor and puritan work ethic lead her to always seek improvement and these attributes will serve her well in life beyond her time as a student athlete.”
StFX prop Joanna Alphonso, Laval flanker Fabiola Forteza and McMaster No.8 Sara Svoboda were the other nominees.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: MacKenzie Carson, UBC
Mackenzie Carson burst on to the U Sports rugby scene in a big way this season. The Abbotsford, B.C., native and UBC flyhalf scored a try in her very first game with the UBC Thunderbirds. She quickly became a point person in the Thunderbirds attack and would go on to score three tries in the 2016 season. Carson was a star for the Yale Lions during her high school career in Abbotsford and was name to Canada’s U-20 team this summer that travelled to England. She also captained the BC team that won the National 7's Championship and the Las Vegas International 7's championship earlier this year.
“Mackenzie was able to step into a demanding position (flyhalf) seamlessly,” said Thunderbirds head coach Maria Gallo. “Her attitude toward this challenge was remarkable and her ability to adapt was impressive. She has a bright future at UBC!”
Scrum halfs Julie Naughler of Saint Mary’s, Jordi Ni Nardo of Queen’s Justine Pelletier of Laval were also in the running.
STUDENT-ATHLETE COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD: Kelsey Brumm, Acadia
A fourth-year kinesiology student from Dartmouth, N.S., Kelsey Brumm is a centre with the Axewomen rugby team.
She is heavily involved in the community. She volunteers her time with an array of initiatives, including the Acadia S.M.I.L.E. program (Sensory Motor Instructional Learning Experience), working with children with autism to develop motor, cognitive and social learning skills.
Brumm is the vice president of the Exercise is Medicine group at Acadia, organizing and facilitating community events which promote physical activity and wellness. She is also a volunteer with the Annapolis Valley Cardiac Rehabilitation Centre, which helps patients to recover from cardiac episodes.
Brumm coaches children and adolescents with the Acadia Performance Training program. She is also a social event coordinator for Acadia's kinesiology society.
“Kelsey is simply an amazing young woman," said Axewomen head coach Matt Durant. “What Kelsey manages to accomplish in the realm of her volunteer work is astounding.”
“What compounds these incredible accomplishments is that she is also a star in the classroom (an academic all-Canadian), holding one of the highest academic averages on our team. And, she has managed to maintain this level of involvement in volunteer work while simultaneously recovering from a season-ending knee injury last season as well as the subsequent surgical repair and rehabilitation. It is an amazing example she sets for her teammates and all U Sports student-athletes.”
Brumm is the first-ever player from Acadia to be honoured with this award since its inception in 2007
Kendra Blackbourn of Guelph, Emma Thuot of Carleton were also nominated and Deborah Adesgun of Alberta were also nominated.
JIM ATKINSON AWARD (coach of the year): Simon Chi, Calgary
Simon Chi took over the Dinos women's rugby program in its second year of existence in 2010 and has been head coach ever since. With three Canada West silvers and two bronzes over his career with Calgary, he reached the pinnacle of the program's history by winning their first Canada West Championship this season. He has also led the Dinos to their first appearance on the national stage in 2016 since the inception of the team in 2009.
“Simon has done a great job leading our women's rugby team for seven of the eight years of the program's history," said Calgary athletic director Christine Stapleton. “This is terrific recognition for Simon and the entire staff that work with the women's rugby program to cultivate excellence on and off the field. We congratulate him on this well-deserved honour.”
UPEI’s John LaBoyne, Ottawa’s Jennifer Boyd and Western’s John Weller were named coach of the year in the other U Sports conferences this season.
Two all-Canadian teams were also announced on Wednesday.
Joining U Sports player of the year DaLeaka Menin and conference MVPs Joanna Alphonso, Fabiola Forteza and Sara Svoboda on the first 15-member unit were hooker Emily Tutossi, flanker Temitope Ogunjimi and wing Elysa Sandron of Calgary, lock Devon Stober and fullback Alexandra King of Guelph, lock Sara Haring and scrum half Amanda Smith of Alberta, inside centre Alexandra Tessier and outside centre Frederique Rajotte of Concordia, flyhalf Anaïs Holly of Montreal and wing Nikki Case of Western
Joining RSEQ rookie of the year Justine Pelletier on the second squad were prop Colleen Irowa and No.8 Katie Svoboda of McMaster, hooker Tobi Owotomo and wing Petra Woods of York, lock McKinley Hunt and inside centre Nadia Popov of Queen’s, lock Harley Tucker and fullback Annie Kennedy of Acadia, Ottawa prop Simone Savary, UBC flanker Gillian Boag, Victoria flanker Julia Folk, Guelph flyhalf Julia Schell, Western outside centre Paige Farries and StFX wing Breanna Allison.
2016 U SPORTS WOMEN'S RUGBY AWARDS & ALL-CANADIANS
Player of the year: DaLeaka Menin, Calgary
Rookie of the year: MacKenzie Carson, UBC
Student-Athlete Community Service award: Kelsey Brumm, Acadia
Jim Atkinson Award (coach of the year): Simon Chi, Calgary