BU women’s volleyball team shines in classroom

24 Bobcats named academic all-Canadians


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Danielle Dardis immediately knew she had a smart team back in 2019.

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Danielle Dardis immediately knew she had a smart team back in 2019.

The Calgary product felt the academic influence of veterans like Danielle Larocque and Caitlin Le — who moved on to the University of Manitoba’s pharmacy and medical schools, respectively — and others who made it clear volleyball was only part of life as a Brandon University Bobcat.

Members of the 2021-22 Bobcats women’s volleyball team were honoured for setting a program record with 11 academic all-Canadians at the Healthy Living Centre on Tuesday, along with the rest of the school’s 24 winners.

“Unreal, I’m so proud of everyone,” Dardis said. Our team works so hard, even when we’re on the road together, taking that extra time to study, it’s definitely inspiring to see and it’s all paid off.

“… Dani Larocque, Rayvn (Wiebe), Jamie (Bain), they really established that yes, we’re here to play volleyball but our culture was putting the classroom first and that’s something even the newer girls have really tried to instil.”

Former players Wiebe, Bain, Le, Nika Tolley, Nicole Ashauer and James DeGroot earned the award along with Dardis, Keely Anderson, Kallie Ball, Avery Burgar and Tielle Hagel. Brooklyn Pratt also hit the requirement of an 80 per cent academic average but redshirted.

Le and Larocque still had a year of eligibility when they left but were eager to pursue their careers and were content to move on. For someone who provided enough energy to power a small village whenever she put her libero jersey on, it says a lot about how much the team values education for Le to put it first.

“For most of us that are here for four to five years of our lives, it’s awesome to be here for the volleyball but at the end of the day, you’re here to get a degree, you’re here to further yourself and your professional career,” Dardis said.

“I know for myself or anyone else that’s looked at a graduate degree or any other post-secondary, it’s important to do well in your studies.”

U Sports teams can gain a competitive edge by producing academic all-Canadians. Not only are smart students typically high-IQ athletes, their returning as academic all-Canadians offers financial flexibility.

Teams can pay up to 70 per cent of a U Sports championship roster in tuition and fees, but returning academic all-Canadians don’t count against that total. So for example, a volleyball championship roster is 14, meaning teams can give 9.8 students full tuition and fees.

With five returnees on the list, Brandon is allowed to cover more than 14 players’ schooling if it has room in the budget.

“They have a strong culture of academic success on that team, they have for quite a few years,” said BU athletic director Russ Paddock.

“… It really takes some discipline. There’s a lot of things to do from on court to training, to competing, to travelling and then young adults at university, there’s social life, friends, so there’s a lot of things to balance and those recognized today have obviously done an excellent job of doing that.”

The BU men’s basketball team had just one in Elisha Ampofo. With a championship roster of 8.4, it can pay up to 9.4 students worth of athletic scholarships.

The men’s volleyball team had five players honoured, including graduated setter Jake Fleming and libero Liam Nohr, and returnees Philipp Lauter, Tom Friesen and Rylan Metcalf.

For women’s basketball, the list included graduated captain Adrianna Proulx and Westman products Sarah Hallett and Josie Grift.

The women’s curling team had Hallie McCannell while the men’s squad had Taylor Holland, Jacob Pfeifer and Mitchell Katcher.

BU president David Docherty spoke before players received their hardware, noting the high-achieving student-athletes are role models in their community.

He also spoke about the importance of athletics programs for universities.

“It demonstrates it quite a bit. We often strive for more national exchanges, more national students coming from different … parts of the country to play so I think that’s phenomenal,” Docherty said. “This is the kind of thing that maybe 10 or 15 years from now these individuals will run into each other again and they’ll have that bond.

“As someone who’s lived in different provinces, I really love the fact that we have students coming from all across the country experiencing Manitoba, going back and telling their story.”

» tfriesen@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @thomasmfriesen

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