Women's soccer dominates Colour Awards

National champions selected as top varsity team for second consecutive season

The women’s soccer team celebrates with the Jim Tait Trophy for outstanding varsity team;
The women’s soccer team celebrates with the Jim Tait Trophy for outstanding varsity team;
Women’s volleyball outside hitter Natalie Gray poses with the PHE ’55 Alumnae Award for the top graduating female student-athlete.
Women’s volleyball outside hitter Natalie Gray poses with the PHE ’55 Alumnae Award for the top graduating female student-athlete.
Football defensive lineman Osie Ukwuoma smiles with the Jenkins Trophy for outstanding male student-athlete.
Football defensive lineman Osie Ukwuoma smiles with the Jenkins Trophy for outstanding male student-athlete.

The women’s soccer team headlined the 76th annual Colour Awards at the Ambassador Hotel on Wednesday night, earning two of the six major prizes.

In front of athletes from all 13 varsity teams, Queen’s Athletics recognized this season’s most impressive accomplishments — selecting the best varsity team, top performance of the year, best male and female student-athletes and top male and female rookie student-athletes.

Jim Tait Trophy for outstanding varsity team: women’s soccer

Queen’s only national champions were selected as the team of the year for the second consecutive season on Wednesday night.

The women’s soccer team won last season’s award after winning the national title in 2010-11. They came back even stronger this season, picking up an OUA title to go with a second straight CIS championship.

“We only talked about [repeating as champions] once at the beginning of the season,” head coach Dave McDowell said. “Repeating is tougher than just winning a national title.”

The Gaels finished top of the OUA East in the regular season before winning playoff games against the Carleton Ravens and the McMaster Marauders. In the OUA final, they beat their rivals, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, in a shootout.

At nationals, the women won three more games, defeating the Montreal Carabins in the CIS final after the game went to penalty kicks.

Winger Riley Filion was named OUA East MVP, rookie Jesse De Boer was OUA East Rookie of the Year, forward Jackie Tessier was the province’s leading scorer for the second straight season while six players were selected as OUA all-stars.

At nationals, goalie Chantal Marson, Tessier, Filion and co-captain Brienna Shaw were all named CIS championship all-stars while Marson was also named tournament MVP.

“As a coach, sometimes it’s hard to sit back and enjoy watching, but when I did get the chance I enjoyed it very much,” McDowell said. “The team has lots of pace, is very mobile [and has] just a tremendous competitive attitude that pervades that team from top to bottom.”

Outstanding Performance of the Year: Joren Zeeman, men’s volleyball

Fifth-year men’s volleyball player Joren Zeeman already had four prolific seasons under his belt at Queen’s, having won OUA Rookie of the Year once, as well as OUA East all-star and second-team CIS All-Canadian three times each.

But he saved his best performances for his fifth year, earning the OUA Player of the Year award while being named a first-team CIS All-Canadian. He was also a tournament all-star at nationals earlier this month.

The Cambridge, Ont. native led the OUA with 4.5 points per set this season. He will graduate from Queen’s with the team record in career kills, with 111, and single-game kills, with 31.

Zeeman, who represented Canada at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China last August, said he’s considering an attempt at a professional career in Europe next year.

“Hopefully I’ll try and go play pro, but I have no contract offers,” he said. “That will all be figured out in July or August.”

Jenkins Trophy for outstanding male student-athlete: Osie Ukwuoma, football

After spending a season away from Queen’s, football defensive lineman Osie Ukwuoma stormed back to win the Jenkins Trophy for outstanding male student-athlete this season.

“It’s an awesome award to win,” he said. “There’s a long line of great athletes who’ve won it and I’m just really excited to be part of it.”

Ukwuoma finished his undergraduate degree after winning the Vanier Cup in 2009. In June, he was cut from the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders. But when he returned to Queen’s as a law student, Ukwuoma rejoined the team this year.

“Coming back, there were lots of guys I didn’t know, but they accepted me with open arms and I didn’t regret [returning] for a second,” he said.

This season, Ukwuoma led the OUA with six sacks, earning OUA first-team all-star status while winning the J.P. Metras award as Ontario’s top lineman.

In five seasons with the Gaels, Ukwuoma was a three-time All-Canadian, a four-time OUA first-team all-star and a two-time J.P. Metras award winner.

“It’s bittersweet that you only get five years to play,” he said, “but I’ll be leaving this place with a couple of degrees and some great memories.”

PHE ’55 Alumnae Award for top graduating female student-athlete: Natalie Gray, women’s volleyball

Women’s volleyball outside hitter Natalie Gray didn’t hesitate recalling her favourite memory from her Queen’s career.

“Winning that OUA banner, when [outside hitter] Becky [Billings] hit the ball off some hands and out of bounds,” she said. “I remember just dropping to the floor and everyone running in to tackle us and celebrate.”

Gray could have chosen a number of top moments this season — the fourth-year Nursing student led the Gaels with 3.6 points per set while earning the OUA Award of Merit and the OUA’s Therese Quigley award for academics, athletics and community involvement. On Wednesday, she won the PHE ’55 Alumnae Award for top graduating female student-athlete.

“I’m pretty humbled … it’s a great accomplishment,” Gray said. “I never thought four years ago that I’d be standing up here.”

Gray said this season was her favourite at Queen’s, adding that she wouldn’t have predicted an OUA title before the season. On Wednesday night, she was visibly emotional about the end of her Gaels career.

“I loved every minute of it,” she said. “Being a Gael has meant so much to me and I know I’ll be missing it come September.”

Alfie Pierce Trophy for top male rookie: Matt Christie, men’s rowing

It didn’t take long for Matt Christie to establish himself on the men’s rowing team. In his first season as a Gael, Christie was the team’s top-ranked rower, capturing an OUA bronze with the lightweight eight boat before winning a gold medal in the lightweight single at the Canadian University Rowing Championship.

On Wednesday, Christie took home the Alfie Pierce Trophy for top male rookie.

“I’m really glad to be part of the team, I’ve enjoyed my time at Queen’s already,” Christie said. “We had a crew age average of 19 this year, so next year we’ll be that much older and that much stronger.”

This summer, Christie hopes to train with Rowing Canada.

“It all depends on how I perform in April,” he said. “We have a time trial that tells us if we get to go into the national team or not.”

Alfie Pierce Trophy for top female rookie: Jessie De Boer, women’s soccer

Women’s soccer rookie Jessie De Boer came to Queen’s as a midfielder.

But with co-captain and central defender Brienna Shaw sidelined with an early-season injury, De Boer filled in at the back. When Shaw returned, De Boer moved into her preferred position in midfield.

By the end of the season, she was a regular starter, scoring five goals and winning OUA East Rookie of the Year while helping her team to a second consecutive national title.

“I just wanted to come out this season and do my best,” De Boer said after winning the Alfie Pierce Trophy for top female rookie on Wednesday night. “It was hard to come into a team that won [the national championship] last year and wanted something better than that, but we just had so much confidence in ourselves.”

Even though the team will graduate certain key players, De Boer didn’t rule out a three-peat next season.

“We’ve got a lot of returning positions,” she said. “If we keep up the same confidence and the same team dynamics we’ll have a good chance.”

— With files from Justin Chin

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