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‘Grateful’ Ukrainian volleyball player named VIU’s female athlete of the year

Vancouver Island University’s athletics department holds annual awards banquet
Jane Lytvynenko was the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Player of the Year, PacWest Player of the Year and MVP of nationals as she led the VIU Mariners to the CCAA championship. (Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association photo)

Vancouver Island University’s athletics department had a full slate of champions and championship contenders in 2021-22, and they had another chance to cheer this week.

VIU athletics held its annual awards ceremony on Wednesday, April 6, at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, and celebrated individual accomplishments and team successes.

Chosen this year’s Athletes of the Year were volleyball player Jane Lytvynenko and basketball player Cameron Gay.

Lytvynenko was the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Player of the Year, PacWest Player of the Year and was MVP of nationals as she led the Mariners to the CCAA championship.

“This program changed my life 360 and for better, so I’m very fortunate,” said Lytvynenko, who did not attend the ceremony but recorded a speech.

She is from Ukraine and missed most of provincial championships as her attention was on her family members impacted by the Russian invasion.

“I am grateful to know so many people because of this program,” Lytvynenko said. “That is why I am sure the darkest moments of my life are not as scary anymore. I’m getting so much help from the athletes and the community, [more] than I have ever imagined.”

Gay was a first-team all-star in the PacWest after averaging 15.6 points per game in his final season with the Mariners, and was MVP of provincials.

The Mariners Rookie of the Year awards went to basketball player Harriette MacKenzie and volleyball player Rylan Van Kooten.

Volleyball players Danielle Groenendijk and Emerson Cooke won the Mariners Academic Excellence Award; Cooke earned an A-plus in every one of his classes during 2021-22.

Unsung Hero Awards went to soccer players Melanie Osborne and Grant Hooper, basketball players Sydney Fetterly and Kevin Chen, and volleyball players Kayla Passmore and Jordan Davis.

Golden Boot winners for top soccer scorers were Cara Dunlop, Matthew Coburn and Taylor Arbour.

The athletic department also recognized the VIU Mariners Spirit Team and the Vancouver Island University Students’ Union with the Mariners Spirit Award.

Danielle Hyde, VIU athletic director, thanked the coaches, athletes, and others behind the scenes who contributed to Mariners sports, and shared some words of wisdom.

“You won’t forget the free throws that you missed, the serves that you missed, the decision to shoot or not to shoot, something you wish you had done differently. You’re not going to forget that 20-plus years later,” said Hyde, a former Mariners student-athlete. “But what I can promise you is that the memories you’ve made with [coaches and teammates] will be what stands out – your first time in a provincial final, your first time in a national final, on the bus, bronze-medal game, gold-medal game, team dinners, team trips. I know that some of the results weren’t what some of you had hoped for this year, but what you’re taking away is far more important.”

READ ALSO: VIU Mariners win fourth-straight national championship on volleyball court

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Irlanda Gonzalez-Price, VIU associate vice-president of student affairs, presents an Athlete of the Year award to basketball player Cameron Gay. The other Athlete of the Year winner, Jane Lytvynenko, did not attend the ceremony. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)