Varsity Blues score big with multiple 2018 major award winners and all-stars

Photo by Toronto Varsity Blues
Photo by Toronto Varsity Blues

Burlington, Ont. – Ontario University Athletics (OUA) is pleased to announce the 2018 OUA field hockey major award winners and all-stars.

Most Valuable Player – Emily Ziraldo, Toronto Varsity Blues

What a year it was for the Toronto Varsity Blues, a team that has more than made their mark on this year’s major awards, and at the heart of their 2018 efforts is this year’s Most Valuable Player.

A third-year forward from Toronto, Emily Ziraldo (Toronto, Ont.) led the Varsity Blues field hockey team and ranked third in the OUA with nine goals in 12 games. Ziraldo had a dominant start to the season, scoring in Toronto’s first five games and earned Varsity Blues female athlete of the week honours for her impressive start. She was held scoreless in just four matches this year. The now two-time OUA all-star helped Toronto to a 10-1-1 regular season record, good for second place in the OUA standings.

Rookie of the Year – Rebecca Carvalho, Toronto Varsity Blues

Joining Ziraldo on the talent-laden Varsity Blues roster was Rebecca Carvalho (Brampton, Ont.), who had an immediate impact in her first season with Toronto. And for her strong start, Carvalho has been named the 2018 OUA Rookie of the Year.

Carvalho is an intelligent player, who executes with the experience of a seasoned veteran. Among the many strengths that Carvalho has showcased this season is her outstanding distribution ability, not to mention the technical skills she boasts unlike any other. The life science major is poised under pressure and creates offensive drives that have helped Toronto to the third-most goals scored this season. She is a member of U of T’s attacking corner unit and has been a member of the Canadian junior development squad since 2016.

Coach of the Year – Cassius Mendonça, Toronto Varsity Blues

Leading the aforementioned award-winners, along with the rest of the Varsity Blues roster, is Cassius Mendonça. In just his second season as Toronto bench boss, he helped the squad to one of the best records in the country, and as a result, has been named the 2018 OUA Coach of the Year. Under his guidance, the Blues allowed a mere nine goals against in 12 games played. His emphasis on video analysis helps U of T maintain a top reputation in the OUA, as they finished the season in second place with 10 wins.

Also representing Toronto in this year’s crop of standouts is all-star Rachel Spouge (Vancouver, B.C.), who is the “brain” of the midfield. Her intelligence on and off the ball to go along with her skills as a distributor have made her an invaluable asset to the Blues squad this season and a deserving member of the conference’s all-star selections.

Gail Wilson Outstanding Contributor – Katherine MacMillan, Guelph Gryphon

Like her fellow award-winners, fourth-year striker Katherine MacMillan (Kitchener, Ont.) has made her mark on the field, but her contributions have also extended beyond that. Her many exceptional qualities have helped make her this year’s Gail Wilson Outstanding Contributor.

After missing all of last season with an injury, MacMillan returned to the Gryphons lineup in style. She started every game, ignited Guelph’s attack, and provided more than 30% of the team’s goals, while assisting on many more. Her skill on the field has helped her also be a voice in the sport, giving back to the community as a coach of the Cobras club program. She also joined the coaching ranks in the provincial system as an assistant coach of the U15 Ontario West girls, who captured the silver medal at the national championships.

MacMillan has also been involved in several charitable initiatives, which include: Big Brothers/Big Sisters Bowl-A-Thon; Cut for the Cure, the Gryphons field hockey team’s annual fundraiser which has contributed over $25,000 to cancer research and hair for wigs; as well as Gryphon field hockey’s mental health awareness and Think Pink awareness games.

Overall, her dedication to the community, her work ethic at school, and her passion for the sport have made MacMillan a deserving recipient of this year’s award.

Another Gryphon who makes her mark on the squad is fellow all-star Rebecca Plouffe (Oakville, Ont.). Last year’s co-MVP is Guelph’s team captain and a crucial part of the team’s offensive and defensive attack. She scored three goals in eight games, while also boasting the ability and flexibility to play any midfield or defensive position.

Last year’s second co-MVP and reigning Rookie of the Year, Jaslan Stirling (Mississauga, Ont.) also earns an all-star nod; her second in as many years. York’s standout player led the league in scoring, pouring in 22 goals in 12 games for the first-place squad, which put her six ahead of fellow all-star MacMillan.

Joining Stirling is fellow Lion Sara Vollmerhausen (Newmarket, Ont.). The fifth-year veteran has been a strong leader both on and off the field for the young squad, with her on-field contributions being highlighted by her key defensive ability and distribution skills on offence. In her first season with York, meanwhile, Amber Sandhu (Delta, Alta.) proved to be another key cog key cog on both sides of the ball with her all-star speed, skill, and play-making ability.

Goalie of the Year – Amanda Thoo, Queen's Gaels

A further standout who helped buoy her team’s efforts on the year is Queen’s goaltender Amanda Thoo (Ottawa, Ont.), who has started for the Gaels between the pipes for three seasons. In what has been a continuously improving Tricolour squad, a key factor has been Thoo's play in net, guiding her to this year's Goalie of the Year nod. Thoo has been a difference-maker when it comes to her team’s ability to compete with the best in the province, helping keep her squad knocking on the door against the rest of the OUA’s elite, while also spearheading the team’s goal differential of plus-six.

The Western Mustangs may not have had the on-field results they would have liked this season, but a pair of purple and white players earned all-star nods for their contributions. Emma Wingrave (Oakville, Ont.) and Brigid Sterling (Cobourg, Ont.) have translated their strong campaigns into all-star selections for the purple ponies, while Larissa McLeod (Cambridge, Ont.), who had another strong season for the Waterloo Warriors, represents the black and gold on this year’s all-star squad.

Umpire of the Year – Denise Pelletier

Rounding out this year’s award winners is a familiar face, as for the fourth time in the last five years, the OUA’s top umpire is Denise Pelletier.

Pelletier started umpiring with the Waterloo Women's Field Hockey Club 12 years ago. For two seasons, she officiated at the high school level and was selected to umpire at the OFSAA championships. She then made the jump to umpiring in the OUA and, over the past 10 campaigns, has become one of the top umpires in the league.  

In just her second season umpiring at the university level, in 2009, Pelletier was selected to work at the OUA championships and has since been chosen numerous times to umpire at the OUA and U SPORTS tournaments. She is a FIH rated umpire and is quickly rising to be one of the top game officials in Canada. 

The complete list of 2018 field hockey major award winners and all-stars is as follows:

Major Award Winners:

Most Valuable Player – Emily Ziraldo, Toronto
Rookie of the Year – Rebecca Carvalho, Toronto
Coach of the Year – Cassius Medonca, Toronto
Gail Wilson Outstanding Contributor – Katherine MacMillan, Guelph
Goalie of the Year – Amanda Thoo, Queen's
Umpire of the Year – Denise Pelletier 

All-Stars

Jaslan Stirling, York
Emily Ziraldo, Toronto
Katherine MacMillan, Guelph
Rebecca Plouffe, Guelph
Sara Vollmerhausen, York
Rachel Spouge, Toronto
Larissa McLeod, Waterloo
Emma Wingrave, Western
Brigid Sterling, Western
Amber Sandhu, York
Amanda Thoo, Queen’s