Last week, Bison men’s volleyball head coach Garth Pischke was named the Canada West coach of the year for the first time in his 35-year career. Ken Rooney, a fifth-year middle for the men’s volleyball team, took home the Canada West Student-Athlete Community Service award. He is now nominated for the Dale Iwanoczko Student-Athlete award, the national award.
Kearley Abbott of the women’s volleyball team was named the Canada West rookie of the year. The last two times a Bison won the Canada West rookie of the year, they went on to win the national award as well.
Abbott was a stud for the Bisons, leading the Bisons with 247 kills, which was 11th in the Canada West. She was 19th in the Canada West with a .206 hitting percentage and eighth in the conference with 306 points. The Winnipeg native finished second on the team with 187 digs. Abbott played in every single set this season, a big accomplishment for any rookie.
“I think the first half of [the season] was pretty good,” she said. “There’s always games where you play really amazing, then there are some weeks that aren’t that great. My teammates were really good at helping me through that time.”
The jump from high school volleyball to university volleyball took Abbott a little bit to get used to, but the preseason helped her adjust.
“The first couple weeks were pretty challenging,” she said. “I just remember swinging as hard as I could and not getting any points. I think after preseason that got me adjusted to how I needed to play.”
Abbott was also named a first year captain for the Bisons, and head coach Jon Hykawy did not see that as part of her game.
“She led more by how she played,” he said. “I never expected her to play that well. She really helped our group this year in just the sense of her compete level. It’s a big honour for Kearley to get that Canada West rookie of the year [award].”
Rooney, who is four years removed from his rookie year, is honoured to have been given the Community Service award.
“I just really enjoy giving back to the community,” the fifth-year middle said. “These things are really important to me. These kids really look up to us, even though we as student athletes don’t think we’re that big of a deal.”
Rooney has been a three-time U Sports Academic All-Canadian, as well as a captain on the Bisons for the past four seasons. He has been a volunteer for Manitoba’s “I Love to Read Month”, Siloam Mission, and a club volleyball coach during his whole five-year career at Manitoba.
For Pischke this is the first time he has been named Canada West Coach of the Year, although he was named Coach of the Year numerous times when Manitoba played in the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC).
“It feels great, this is team of the year, the team of the regular season,” Pischke said. “I felt our team played great this regular season, we played exceptionally well at home. This is just a symbol of how good my staff is and how well the players played.”