Pakmen Grads Rack up a Bevy of All-Star Selections
By DAVID WINER
Pakmen Volleyball Club should be nicknamed the school of higher learning.
One would be hard-pressed to find a club that better prepares its athletes for the future. Whether it be college, or university, Pakmen graduates always seem destined to excel.
This has been a particularly strong year for former club members with a healthy sprinkling of 17 former Pakmen standouts selected as First and Second Team All-Canadians.
Ryerson’s Xander Ketrzynski headlines the men’s side being named a First Team All-Canadian. University of Toronto’s Chris Towe was selected to the Second Team and Nipissing’s Jackson Young made the All-Canadian All-Rookie team.
Meanwhile, former Pakmen teammates Cailin Wark and Lucy Glen-Carter were named to the All-Canadian First Team.
“Every varsity volleyball player in Canada wants to be named to the USports All-Canadian First Team, so I’m completely thrilled to be honored,” said Glen-Carter, who just completed her third year of play. “My team, the Acadia Axewomen, has an incredible coach in Michelle Wood, who mentors us and pushes us to be better players each and every year.
“All the athletes who play ball at the university level in Canada work incredibly hard to balance their sport and their studies,” added Glen-Carter. “It’s a huge commitment, and they all deserve recognition. But the USports first and second teams are only seven players each, so I feel very fortunate to be singled out.”
“Cailin and I played for Pakmen teams coached by Mike Albert, so it’s also a testament to the strong foundation we had to build from.”
That Albert-led team won the 18U National Championship in 2017, which certainly was a hectic year for the outside hitter.
“I played for Team Ontario at the Canada Games in Winnipeg. Then I came out to Nova Scotia to study kinesiology and play volleyball at Acadia University.”
And what a career it’s been. Named to the USports All-Rookie team in the 2017-18 campaign, Glen-Carter was selected an Atlantic University Sport (AUS) First Team All-Star in each of her three campaigns.
“(But) this is the first time I’ve been named to the USports All-Canadian First Team.
“Now it’s time to let my body rest and recuperate, while I hit the books to study. Training for next season starts soon!”
Next year, after her fourth season, Glen-Carter intends to keep all of her options open.
“I haven’t made any firm decisions yet,” she said. “I have one more year until I graduate. I’m thinking of a post-graduate degree in physiotherapy or athletic therapy. And, obviously, I’d love to stay involved in volleyball in one way or another. Plus we have five years of eligibility to play here in Canada, so it depends on that. There are lots of options right now.”
Glen-Carter is certain of one thing. “When they flew me out on a recruiting visit in Grade 12. I knew it was the place for me.
“I love it out here. Acadia offers such a unique undergraduate experience with just over 3,000 students on a beautiful intimate campus, excellent academics and great sports teams. There’s a real sense of community.
“So who knows. At the moment I’m just focusing on completing my undergraduate degree,” says the two-time academic All-Canadian, “and I think our volleyball team will definitely be in contention for the AUS title next year!”
As for Wark, the Georgetown native was fifth in the OUA (Ontario University Athletics) with 3.25 kills per set, sixth in points per set, with four, and was fifth in hitting percentage (0.285).
The senior outside hitter, who is a former all-rookie and three-time OUA all-star, eclipsed 200 kills for the first time in four years and was the prime offensive contributor for a team that finished first in the OUA in both kills and total points.
The OUA men’s and women’s all-star teams were also announced last week, with many Pakmen graduates permeating both the East and West seven-player squads.
Ketrzynski and Towe, a fifth-year mechanical engineering major out of Caledon, who garnered his second straight first team honor, joined fourth-year setter and three-time OUA all-star Jordan Figueira on the East Team.
Western’s Jackson Bere, last year’s OUA rookie of the year, was selected along with McMaster’s Craig Ireland, who paced McMaster with 140 kills, to the West Team.
Not to be overlooked is McMaster’s Jordan Pereira, the recipient of the Dale Iwanoczko Award of Merit for his exceptional work in volleyball, academics and community service. The fourth year libero was a key performer on defence with a team-best 103 digs.
For his part this was Ketrzynski’s second straight First-Team All-Star appearance after leading the conference in kills and aces per set. The star outside attacker racked up a league-best 279 kills while adding 5.3 points per set. His serve was one to watch as well, racking up 34 aces across his 18 matches played.
Meanwhile, Young and Ryerson’s Navreet Suhan were named East Division second team allstars, while Guelph’s Jackson Paterson earned such honors in the West.
Young, who led his Nipissing Lakers in kills and points, was also named to the East’s All-Rookie Team.
A native of Mississauga, Suhan is a third year middle who was fifth in the OUA with 48 total blocks. He also took advantage of his opportunities on offence, hitting at a 0.280 efficiency. This is the second straight year Suhan was named a Second-Team all-star.
Awards for Pakmen graduates were just as forthcoming on the women’s side, led by Wark.
On the women’s side, Wark joins U of T’s Jenna Woock and Queen’s Julia Wiercigroch (fourth in the OUA in kills and seventh in points), on the East Division First All-Star team, while also being named the East’s Player of the Year.
Meanwhile Melissa Langegger of Western, who was second in the OUA in aces, was named a West first-team all-star.
Closing out the award recipients on the OUA women’s side were Lauren Veltman of Ryerson an East second team all-star, and Queen’s Teah Cook, who was named to the East’s all-rookie team.
Despite battling an injury throughout the season, Veltman, a Brampton native, still was rewarded with a selection. Veltman finished the season with 2.8 points per set and 2.37 kills per set in her 13 matches. She also displayed her versatility by playing outside hitter, middle, and even playing as a libero once. This is Veltman’s third all-star nod in her career.
Cook, meanwhile, finished fifth in the OUA in service aces per set at 0.53 along with 114 kills from her position as an outside hitter.
“Queen’s was the perfect fit for me,” said Cook. “I was able to pursue my volleyball career at a higher level while earning an education at a top Canadian university, and I was fortunate enough to play (regularly) in my first year, ending the season top-five in Ontario in service aces and kills.
“Going from playing club to university volleyball was a significant change and required a lot of on-court confidence,” added the 18-year-old, 5-foot-11 Georgetown native. “But, Pakmen taught me to stand my ground and to be an aggressive player on the court, providing me with a smooth transition to the next level. I was able to use the skills that I learned from Pakmen since I joined at 14u and carry them into my gameplay today.
To the east, Glen-Carter and the University of New Brunswick’s Kristen Burns , were named first-team and second-team all-stars respectively.
Like Glen-Carter, Figueira was thrilled to hear he had made an all-star team.
“This is my third time being honored with an OUA All-Star and my second time being named a First-Team All-Star,” began Figueira. “Being named an all-star, in particular a First-Team All-Star, really validates all my work throughout the years.
“Knowing that I may not be the tallest setter out there, I hold myself responsible to do extra work on a daily basis to ensure I can excel at a higher level on the court. This extra work is what I attribute to my success on the court. And the awards that I have received have only pushed me to get even better and work even harder to grow my team’s success. In saying that, my award this year meant even more due to the success of my team. Three of my teammates also won all-star awards and we came second in the OUA for the first time since 2003. My team’s success is ultimately what I strive for, which is why this year has been such a memorable one.
“The work ethic is something that has always been a part of who I am,” continued Figueira. “However, this work ethic was further reinforced through Pakmen with coaches and teammates who expected me to always work as hard as I could in order to help the team succeed on the court. An example of this extra work throughout my Pakmen career would be the setter clinics on Sundays that all setters were required to attend and that not many other clubs, if any, do.”
And, with so many of Figueira’s former Pakmen teammates involved in the OUA, just about every match is a reunion of some kind.
“I do stay in touch with my former teammates when I play against them. I always find time to have a quick chat with them before, or after, our games. I spent six years competing with them, and those are memories and bonds I will always cherish.”
While Pereira was not named to the OUA first, or second teams, the Dale Iwanoczko Award of Merit was more than just a consolation prize for the McMaster Marauder.
Success on the court has come early and often for the St. Catharines native as the fourth-year libero has been a part of two championship teams. This past season, Pereira averaged 1.94 digs per set, which was good enough for sixth best in the league. The Commerce student, who is a three-time Academic All-Canadian a Marauder Scholar recipient, and former All-Rookie Team member is also a volunteer with McMaster Athletes Care, is a volunteer coach with a local volleyball club, and runs summer volleyball programs at Eden H.S.