Athletic Awards Banquet 2012

April 1st, 2012

Stephens, Smith take top honours
VIU Mariners athletic department hands out hardware to their top performing athletes of the season
Josh Aldrich
Daily News


The Vancouver Island University athletics department was not going to let Jared Stephens go off to England without one more honour, naming him their male athlete of the year at their awards banquet on Tuesday.

The star forward for the men's soccer team last week was named the Pacific West Athletic Association's athlete of the year across all sports and he is headed off to England to try his hand at the pro game in Sheffield once his season with the Highlanders Soccer Academy is over in July.

The other big award recipient was women's volleyball setter Dani Smith, who helped the Mariners end their national title drought at four years on home court in March. She has one year left at VIU, and with a strong returning cast a repeat is all she is thinking about.

The athletics department recognized all of its provincial and national awards recipients from the year and paid special attention to those who excelled in the classroom as well.

Other awards included: the Mariner Academic Excellence award which went to Patrick McCarthy from the men's basketball team and Richelle Rafnkjelson from the women's basketball team; freshman of the year - Alyssa Wolf from the women's volleyball team and Jason McKee from the men's basketball team; and the president's award that recognized one athlete from each team.

Stephens had a busy night as a season's worth of accomplishments - including PacWest men's soccer player of the year, Canadian Colleges Athletic Association all-Canadian, multiple PacWest player of the week and of course the Golden Boot as the team's top scorer - were recognized in one fell swoop.

"It was unreal, overwhelming," said Stephens. "These awards only happen when a team is successful and that just starts from the ground up with the character guys we have, so you have to give it to them."

Smith, meanwhile, often flew under the radar with the Mariners.

As a setter she doesn't play the flashiest of positions and the only setter-specific stats - assists - are not kept by the PacWest. Often the only time the layman would notice her is if the offence looks out of whack and errors are being made. Fortunately for VIU, those instances were few and far between.

To those in the know, however, her contributions to one of the most explosive offences in the country were well noted.

"Dani's been our rock solid player throughout the year and throughout her entire time with VIU," said Mariners head coach Shane Hyde.

"Throughout her four years here, there's been one player we couldn't replace and that's been Dani. On and off the court Dani is a leader and a competitor and we are so blessed to have her in our program."

Smith was also named an all-Canadian at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championships hosted by VIU in early March, but these individual honours, while nice, are not something she sets as goals. Certainly not next year, anyway as she has her sites set on repeating the Mariners' national championship.

It is a similar situation as the one she came into in her first year as the VIU was celebrating it's first ever national championship.

She learned a lot that season about playing as a defending champion.

"Next year I think we need to come in as hungry as we were before and wanting it jut as much," she said. "I think we have the horses to do it again, it's very exciting."


Soccer Golden Boot

Women: Emma Johannson, six goals Men: Jared Stephens, six goals

VIU International Education Student Athlete Scholarships

Women's basketball: Jocelyn Jones Men's basketball: Brandon Jones Badminton: Corentin Denis

Mariner Academic Excellence Award

Men's Basketball: Patrick McCarthy Women's Basketball: Richelle Rafnkjelson

President's Award

Women's soccer: Steph Dean Men's soccer: Ben Leggett Badminton: Zack Yim Golf: Kristian Hrabowych Women's volleyball: Shenise Power Men's volleyball: Jan Engel Women's basketball: Richelle Rafnkjelson Men's basketball: Trevor Davidson

Freshman of the year

Women's volleyball: Alyssa Wolf Men's basketball: Jason McKee

Athlete of the year

Women's volleyball: Dani Smith Men's soccer: Jared Stephens