Wednesday, February 29, 2012

CanWest MVP Goes To Cougars Guard

University of Regina fourth-year guard Joanna Zalesiak was named the Canada West Most Valuable Player on Wednesday afternoon as the conference announced its award winners and all-star teams for the 2011-12 season.

In addition, Cougar fourth-year forward Lindsay Ledingham was named a conference second-team all-star and Dave Taylor was named the Canada West Coach of the Year.

Zalesiak, who was also named a first-team all-star, ran the point for a Cougar offence that averaged 84.2 points per game during the conference schedule, a total which stands as the third highest in Canada West history.

She led the conference with 117 assists during the Canada West schedule, averaging just under six per game, and also led the Cougars in steals (57) and minutes played and finished second on the team with 137 rebounds. Though she has a year of CIS eligibility remaining, Zalesiak is expected to end her U of R career after this season as she has completed the academic requirements for her Bachelor of Sport & Recreation Studies degree. Zalesiak will end her time at the U of R ranked 10th in school history with 931 points in conference play despite playing just three seasons with the Cougars.

Zalesiak becomes the second University of Regina product to be named the Canada West Most Valuable Player, joining Cymone Bouchard (2004).

“Joanna's ability to push the ball in transition and attack the defence was instrumental in helping us go 20-0 during conference play,” Cougars head coach Dave Taylor said. “Her work ethic is second to none and she gladly decreased her scoring average this year to help make us better as a team. She makes everyone around her better – a fact which is reflected by her leading the conference in assists this year – and she's also an outstanding rebounder.

Ledingham earns Canada West second-team all-star honours for the second consecutive season. She finished third on the Cougars with an average of 12.5 points per game and pulled down a team-leading 153 rebounds during the 20-game conference schedule.

“Lindsay used her experienced gained while playing for Team Canada at the Universiade and the Pan Am Games to vault her into another all-star season for us,” Taylor said. “She contributes as a scorer, rebounder, defender, and most of all as a leader. In the past three offseasons, Lindsay has put in the work to improve and I am so proud of her for receiving back-to-back all-star selections.”

Taylor, in his sixth year as the head coach of the U of R's women's basketball team, led the Cougars to their first undefeated conference season this year as they went through the Canada West gauntlet with a perfect 20-0 record. The Cougars, who hold a 32-1 overall record this year including last weekend's two-game sweep over Winnipeg in the Canada West quarterfinals, have been ranked No. 1 in every CIS Top Ten poll this season.

Taylor, the 11th head coach in the history of women's basketball at the U of R, ranks second in the school's all-time record book in both conference coaching wins (99) and postseason victories (20). He becomes the first Cougar bench boss to be named the Canada West Women's Basketball Coach of the Year since the U of R joined the conference prior to the 2001-02 season.

“Dave's success is directly attributable to his exceptional work ethic and his commitment to excellence in every aspect of the Cougar women's basketball program,” University of Regina athletics director Dick White said.

The Cougars host the Canada West Final Four this weekend at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport. Friday's semifinal games feature UBC against Saskatchewan (5 p.m.) and Fraser Valley against host Regina (7 p.m.). The third-place game will go on Saturday night at 5 p.m. with the title game to follow at 7 p.m.

Canada West Award Winners
Most Valuable Player: Joanna Zalesiak (Regina)
Coach of the Year: Dave Taylor (Regina)
Defensive Player of the Year: Katie Miyazaki (Saskatchewan)
Rookie of the Year: Dalyce Emmerson (Saskatchewan)
Tracy MacLeod Award nominee: Nicole Wierks (Fraser Valley)
Sylvia Sweeney Award nominee: Lauren Taal (Lethbridge)

Canada West First-Team All-Stars
Zara Huntley (UBC)
Jenna Kaye (Calgary)
Katie Miyazaki (Saskatchewan)
Diane Schuetze (Thompson Rivers)
Joanna Zalesiak (Regina)

Canada West Second-Team All-Stars
Nicole Clarke (Alberta)
Dalyce Emmerson (Saskatchewan)
Tessa Klassen (Fraser Valley)
Lindsay Ledingham (Regina)
Kris Young (UBC)

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