The Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association has announced the finalists for the selection of the Manitoba Team of the Year and Athletes of the Year for 2014.
The University of Manitoba has finalists in all three categories, and two in the team bracket. All-Canadian stars Taylor Pischke in women's volleyball and Nic Demski in football are nominated for Female and Male Athletes of the Year, while the Manitoba Bison national champions in women's volleyball and men's golf are up for consideration as the province's Team of the Year.
Pischke, who sparked the Bisons to a seventh CIS title, is opposed on the final ballot to be cast by the Manitoba sports media by another volleyball standout in UBC's Lisa Barclay, the CIS women's volleyball Player of the Year who is nominated for a second straight year; Jennifer Saunders, who set a women's racquetball record by winning her eighth national singles title; Mandy Marchuk, a member of Canada's silver medalist women's World Cup rugby team; and Jocelyn Larocque, a defensive star on Canada's gold medal winning women's hockey team at the Winter Olympics.
Also on the male ballot against Demski, who is the first Bison football player to be named on four CIS all-Canadian teams, is the 2007 and 2013 Male Athlete winner Jonathan Toews of Chicago Blackhawks, who scored the winning goal in Canada's gold medal victory over Sweden; Olympic curling gold medalist Ryan Fry, the outstanding third on the Brad Jacobs team; Basketball Manitoba's Male Athlete of the Year William Kohler; and Bret Thompson, chosen as the provincial amateur golfer of the year for 2014 by Golf Manitoba.
Two curling teams have been nominated to oppose the Bison women's volleyball and golf squads, the Jennifer Jones Olympic women's gold medalists at the Winter Games in Sochi, and Mike McEwen's foursome that captured an exceptional six titles and posted 45 victories in seven events entered through mid-December on this season's curling tour. The Jones quartette won the Manitoba team award for 2013. The fifth team finalist this year is the Team Manitoba under-17 male basketball gold medalists, a first time achievement for this province.
As a result of final voting, the winners will be declared at the 59th annual Athletes of the Year awards dinner on Sunday, January 25th, 2015, at the Delta Winnipeg Hotel.
Among the MSSA awards to be presented at the dinner are the Cactus Jack Wells Memorial trophy, to recognize the event or individual creating a major impact on the Manitoba sports scene; the Dallis Beck Memorial Good Guy award to an individual providing excellent support to the sports media; and the Jack Matheson Memorial awards to post secondary students interested in a career in sports journalism or sports public relations.
In addition, former Manitoba sportswriter Patti Dawn Swansson, and CKLQ Brandon sports director Bruce Luebke will be inducted into the MSSA Media Roll of Honour for their outstanding service to sports journalism. Volleyball coaches Garth Pischke and Ken Bentley of the University of Manitoba will receive special achievement awards, and former CBC sportscaster Ernie Nairn will receive the MSSA longtime recognition award.
Jocelyne Larocque photo by Ray Peters
Volleyball & Golf photos courtesy University of Manitoba