Leonard, Epp named Canada West Athletes of the Year

CGY soccer player and TWU volleyball player earn conference's top honours

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WINNIPEG — Add "the best of the best" to Montana Leonard's and Derek Epp's already-impressive resumés. The soccer star and the volleyball sensation have been named the 2021-2022 Canada West Athletes of the Year.

The two take home the conference's top honour after inspirational seasons that saw Calgary's Leonard break a conference record despite a shortened season and Trinity Western's Epp become a spectacle to watch, as he led his top-ranked team in a dominant season.

The pair will now move forward as the Canada West nominees for the prestigious Lois and Doug Mitchell Awards, which honour the nation's top male and female student-athletes. U SPORTS will announce the winners on May 25.


FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Montana Leonard

 
 
  • Midfielder - Soccer
  • Calgary Dinos
  • Fifth year
  • Richmond, BC
  • Open Studies

Montana Leonard's historic season in Canada West has netted her yet another award. After earning the CW and U SPORTS Soccer Player of the Year honours, Leonard's passion and skill are now recognized with at the conference's highest level.

She captivated CW fans by scoring 17 goals this year — a new conference record. And she did it in a shortened season. Leonard wasn't just the best in the west. She led the country in goals, points (19) and shots on goal (64), drawing the eye of every spectator when she was on the pitch.

Like a diamond under pressure, Leonard shone in adversity. When her team needed a game-winning goal, she provided, leading the conference with five in that category.

Leonard's record breaking season helped the Dinos to a 9-2-1 mark during the regular season, and a second place finish in the conference's Central Division.

The Richmond, BC product also stood out off the field as a two-time Academic All-Canadian.

Less than two months after being named the U SPORTS women's soccer player of the year, Leonard signed a professional contract to play with the Launceston United Soccer Club in Australia.

From the coach:

“This is more deserved recognition celebrating an extraordinary final campaign and exceptional career. Montana remains humble and represents all that it is to be a Dino on and off the field. We are forever proud of her.”
-Calgary Dinos head coach Troye Flannery

From the athletic director:

“Montana’s 2021 season was truly historic, and she is a worthy representative for Canada West in the national athlete of the year selections. She embodies the very best of a student-athlete, and she remained committed to come back for one more season after graduating to have the ending she deserved with her teammates. She leaves the University of Calgary and the Dinos soccer program in a better place than she found it.”
-Calgary Dinos director of athletics Ben Matchett


MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Derek Epp

 
 
  • Setter/Outside - Volleyball
  • Trinity Western Spartans
  • Fifth year
  • Saskatoon, SK
  • Human Kinetics

Derek Epp's dominance on the court has earned him his third major honour this year. After winning the CW and U SPORTS Volleyball Player of the Year awards, Epp has been recognized as the best across disciplines with this latest accomplishment.

Epp's unique blend of preparation and creativity made him the centrepiece of the country's top-ranked Trinity Western Spartans. Epp stood out in a strong program as the setter in a 6-2 system where he commanded the conference's most efficient offence while converting effectively as a hitter as well.

The Saskatoon, SK product captained his team to a 15-1 regular season record (the lone loss coming when Epp and other starters did not play) and a perfect 7-0 CW post season mark. The Canada West Champions went on to win silver at nationals.

Epp is a two-time Academic All-Canadian.

Following his time with TWU, Epp will be pursuing a professional volleyball career abroad. This summer, he is set to return to Canada’s senior men’s volleyball program, as the national team prepares for the Volleyball Nations League and, later the summer, the World Championship.

From the coach:

"It is hard to summarized Derek in just a few words or in a short paragraph. But when it comes to the skills of the game it is hard to remember seeing a setter at the U SPORTS level who is a more special tactician and executor of a volleyball offence. His dedication to his craft, his preparation, and then the execution of those skills at such a high level has probably never been seen before.

He's truly one of the great setters that has ever played this game at the U SPORTS level, and I think that is a product of his preparation, his film study, and his dedication to his craft. The guy is tireless in the way he trains and the details that he focusses on. So many times the great technicians of the game lack the flare in the creativity to go along with their skills, but Derek has that as well. On top of being this incredibly disciplined setter he has this creative way to play that creates unbelievable opportunities for his spikers and creates highlights all over the place.

He is just truly one of those remarkable athletes and a once in a generational talents that I was honoured and blessed to coach and Trinity Western was honoured and blessed to have play for us and the Spartans.

I love that he is still in the game and I love that he is going to pursue his professional career overseas and his career with team Canada.

One of the other parts of Derek that is lesser known, it’s very easy to see how talented he is and how special his skills are, what gets missed is the quality of his character, the teammate, and the leader that he is. He is a man of incredible integrity and focus and discipline.

He has also got time to spare for the younger players and his teammates. He is willing to meet for coffee and mentor and educate the young ones and show support as a brother to his older teammates.

A lot of time the great players are great because of their great character and I believe that for Derek. The quality of his person is reflected in the quality of his play. And that only makes him more unique and more special and more of a joy to have had in our gym and I couldn’t speak higher of him as a player and honestly you would have to speak higher of him as a man."
-Trinity Western Spartans head coach Ben Josephson

From the athletic director:

“Derek is one of those individuals that puts his absolute ALL and very best into his development as a volleyball player and student athlete. ​ In spite of significant health challenges Derek was able to lead the team to historic seasons over his time as a Spartan while maintaining an excellent GPA. ​ His commitment to excellence raised the level of training and competing day in and day out. ​ He has left an incredible legacy for the guys that follow.“
-Trinity Western Spartans director of athletics Jeff Gamache

 

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Since 1972, Canada West (CW) has been a leader in Canadian university sport, working to provide our student-athletes the opportunities to excel in sport, the classroom, and their communities. CW and our 17 members from across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba collectively carry on a legacy of competitive excellence, as our champions proudly go on to represent the conference at U SPORTS national championships.

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