The Canada West Conference has announced the 2008 women’s basketball individual
major award winners and All-Stars, as selected by head coaches across
the conference. A number of player's from Manitoba schools are amongst those recognized including Amy Ogidan (ROY), Tessa Klassen, Caitlyn Gooch and Jessica Stromberg.
  The details are...

 Star of the defending CIS champion Simon Fraser Clan, senior Lani Gibbons, is the Canada West MVP. The top-ranked Clan went 22-1 in conference play and breezed through Round 2 of the playoffs, earning them the right to host this weekend’s Final Four. An Arts major at SFU, she was the Canada West leader in assists (5.74/game) and steals, among the leaders in assist-turnover ratio (second), free throw percentage (5th), three-pointers (third) and points (15th).

“Lani has had a successful year shooting the ball,” said SFU head coach Bruce Langford of his fifth-year point guard. “She provides our team with an experienced leader, a poised and confident player who is able to score or distribute the ball to others at the appropriate times. Lani has an uncanny ability to get rebounds for a small player as well, she just has a nose for the ball.”

Amy Odigan of the Winnipeg Wesmen is the conference Rookie of the Year. In her first season out of Oak Park High School, Odigan averaged 11.6 points per contest, 5.5 rebounds and had a .728 free throw percentage.

“Amy had a wonderful season as a rookie.  She led our team in most statistical categories. She is a natural leader, coachable, driven and a great person. A well-deserved honour. She was clearly the best rookie in Canada West.”, said University of Winnipeg women’s basketball coach Tanya McKay.

Defensive Player of the Year, UBC’s Erica McGuinness, finished third in Canada West scoring (16.4 points per game), seventh in assists, seventh in free throw percentage, eighth in assist/turnover ratio and eighth in total minutes played. The fifth-year North Vancouver native helped lead the T-Birds to a 21-2 mark this year and will play in this weekend’s conference Final Four event at Simon Fraser. Last year the T-Birds won the CW title, and McGuinness won CIS championships with UBC in 2004 and 2006.

With her First Team all-star selection, she has now been a Canada West all-star on two occasions (2007, 2008) a CIS all-Canadian once (2007) and a CIS Tournament all-star (2006).

Nominated for the Tracy MacLeod award as the player who best demonstrates exceptional courage in overcoming adversity is Jessica Stromberg of Winnipeg.

Stromberg played solid basketball in limited minutes during her first year and took a step up last season in her second year until last fall Jessica was diagnosed with Fibre Myalgia , considered a form of arthritis and is characterized by fatigue and pain. Slowly it has affected Jessica’s ability to move around pain free and as her flexibility and muscle fatigue has increased her body becomes more accessible to injury. In May Jessica suffered a second degree sprain in her ankle which prevented her from properly training for the upcoming 2007-08 season. Early in October during a preseason game against RMC, Jessica suffered a broken finger which kept her out of the lineup until early January. Jessica is the team’s energy source. Since her return in January, Stromberg has played every game and playing in excess of 27 minutes per game. Her setbacks have not affected her work in the classroom as she was named an Academic All-Canadian last season with a GPA of She is relentless and determined to make sure Fibre Myalgia does not interfere with her opportunity to play the sport she loves the most… basketball.“One of the hardest working athletes I have coached. Would go through the wall for her team. For her to fight through what she has - being diagnosed with Fibre Myalgia last spring, a 2nd degree ankle sprain last spring and a broken finger through the fall - she has fought the odds and pushed through the 2nd half of our season.  An 'energizer bunny' in practice and games, Academic All-Canadian and a leader on and off the floor - a wonderful ambassador of the University of Winnipeg”, said Wesmen head coach Tanya McKay.

Fraser Valley fourth-year guard and Cascades team captain Michelle Buhler is the conference nominee for the Sylvia Sweeney Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in basketball, academics and community involvement.

Buhler competed in all of UCFV’s games this year and was a starter for every Canada West regular season contest, finishing third in team scoring (9.0 ppg). Prior to the Cascades joining the CIS, Buhler was a BCCAA Player of the Year (2005-06), a CCAA all-Canadian and a two-time provincial all-star.

Buhler is the driving force behind the Cascades “Big Bunch” program which she helped create this season with the local Big Sisters Association. The program runs every Tuesday with 18 young girls from the Abbotsford community. The “little sisters” are in grades four and five and spend between two and three hours each week on Campus with Buhler and the other Cascades involved with the program. Along with exercise, the mentoring sessions include activities that focus on healthy living. In the classroom, Buhler boasts a 3.59 GPA (on a scale of 4). The fourth-year Kinesiology and Physical Education major plans to teach and counsel at the secondary school level upon graduation.

UCFV head coach Al Tuchscherer said of Buhler, “Michelle exemplifies all the values that we hold in high regard in our program to the highest level.  Her dedication to her studies is unparalleled, demonstrated by her outstanding GPA which continues to grow as she approaches completion of her degree in the fall of 2008. Athletically she has been a four-year starter and a three-year captain of our squad. What separates Michelle from other student-athletes is her commitment to service… she is consistently a leader within our community and this year has taken things to a new level in initiating, organizing, and planning the Big Sisters, “Big Bunch” program. I can not think of a better example of someone who excels in all areas of being a university student-athlete.”

University of Calgary head coach Shawnee Harle is the Coach of the Year. The Dinos had another impressive regular season, going 16-6 to finish one game behind Alberta for top spot in the Central Division.

“Shawnee’s commitment and passion for her team and the game of basketball are always proudly on display,” said U of C Athletic Director Kevin Boyles. “This year's edition of the Dinos women’s basketball team overcame significant obstacles in posting an exceptional season, despite fighting through the year with only nine athletes. Always professional and always moving forward, Shawnee is one of the prized members of our coaching staff at the University of Calgary.”

Following is a breakdown of all individual award winners and All-Stars:


MVP: Lani Gibbons, Simon Fraser

Rookie of the Year: Amy Odigan, Winnipeg

Defensive Player of the Year
: Erica McGuinness, UBC

Tracy MacLeod Award nominee
: Jessica Stromberg, Winnipeg

Sylvia Sweeney Award nominee
: Michelle Buhler, Fraser Valley

Coach of the Year: Shawnee Harle, Calgary


First Team                             Second Team

Lani Gibbons, Simon Fraser     Tessa Klassen, Manitoba

Ryan McKay, Victoria              Whitney Haswell, Calgary

Courtney Coyle, Calgary          Samantha Hill, Fraser Valley

Erica McGuinness, UBC          Caitlin Gooch, Winnipeg

Ashley Wigg, Alberta               Cait Haggarty, UBC

Major award winners will automatically become finalists for national awards, to be handed out by Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) at the national championship, to be hosted by the University of Saskatchewan, March 7-9 in Saskatoon.

This weekend the Final Four takes place at Simon Faser in Burnaby, B.C., with the host Clan facing Regina in one conference semifinal, and Alberta taking on UBC in the other, both on Friday nigth. The top three will qualify for Nationals, giving Canada West four teams at the CIS event.

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