SARNIA, ON — Take note.
It feels like just yesterday that the 2021-22 season was getting underway after a lengthy hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a level of excitement in the air with post-secondary sport on the horizon after more than a year without action on campus from coast to coast in Canada.
Now, the first half of the year is already in the books, and we’re gearing up for a run to the Winter National Championships in the New Year.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we need to take a look back at the first half of the season and some talented players who have excelled in their respective sports. To get you prepared for the second half of the season, we’ve identified some student-athletes that you should keep an eye on as seasons continue to unfold.
While we think that every student-athlete in Canada is deserving of some more attention, we’ve broken the list up into multiple parts to give both U SPORTS and the CCAA their time in the spotlight.
Up first, we have a list of eight student-athletes from across the CCAA that are deserving of some more attention in the winter semester based on what they achieved during the first half of their respective seasons.
Gustavo Lobato, St. Thomas Tommies Men’s Volleyball
The first half of the 2021 season couldn’t have gone much better for Gustavo Lobato and the St. Thomas Tommies Men’s Volleyball program.
Through the first seven games of the year, Lobato and the Tommies sit atop the ACAA standings with a perfect 7-0 record, having dropped just three sets over that stretch. In fact, the Tommies haven’t dropped a set over their last four games, rolling into the Christmas Break with a ton of momentum.
Lobato has been a big reason for the Tommies’ hot start in 2021, ranking among the league leaders in several key offensive categories. The Left Side from Aracaju, Brazil leads the league with a .438 hitting percentage while ranking third with 85 kills and 3.54 kills per set over seven matches. Lobato had double-digit kills in each of his first five matches to start the season, including a season-high 16 kills in the season opener against the UNBSJ Seawolves.
In addition to his attacking numbers, Lobato also leads the league with a total of 21 service aces and an average of 0.88 aces per set. His effectiveness and efficiency in both aces and kills have helped Lobato average a league-high 4.6 points per set for the Tommies.
Lobato ranks inside the top 10 in 14 different statistical categories through the first half of the season, while eight of those categories see Lobato ranked inside the top five. Just by looking at the numbers alone, you can see the wide range of talents that Lobato possesses each time he steps foot on the court. He’s been a key factor in the first half success for the Tommies, and he will look to continue his strong play in the second half of the season.
Laini Glover, Douglas College Royals Women’s Basketball
While the sample size is just three games, more needs to be made about the start to the year that Laini Glover has had for the Royals.
The first year forward from Burnaby, BC put her talents on full display in the Royals’ season opening doubleheader on the road against the Langara Falcons. Glover opened her regular season collegiate career with a casual 31-point, 16-rebound double-double while going 14-of-24 (58.3%) from the field, leading Douglas College to the nine-point win.
Next time out, Glover picked up a second straight double-double, posting 13 points and 12 rebounds on 6-of-11 (54.5%) shooting. Glover averaged 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds while shooting 57.1% over her first two collegiate games, which is one heck of a way to begin her career.
Glover was held in check by the Capilano Blues in the Royals’ third game of the season on December 7th, finishing with just three points, on 1-of-9 shooting, and two rebounds in her first game action in more than a month.
The Royals saw their two games against the Okanagan College Coyotes postponed due to the mass flooding in the lower mainland in British Columbia, so it’s a small sample size for Glover who is still getting accustomed to the rigors of PACWEST basketball.
Still, beginning your collegiate career with a 31-point double-double is something to behold, and deserves more attention going forward. Glover is one of those names to keep track of as the PACWEST season continues to unfold.
Charlie Conner, SAIT Trojans Men’s Basketball
One could make the case that SAIT guard Charlie Conner is one of the best all-around players in the CCAA.
Just hear me out.
Through 68 career games as a member of the Trojans, which includes the first six games this year before the Christmas Break, Conner is averaging 15.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.9 steals per game while shooting 44.9% from the field and 35.8% from three-point range. Conner has put up those numbers while playing with guys like Murphy Beya, Ian Tevis, Gemie Muya, Calvin Chambers, and the late John Smith, among others.
For his career, Conner has racked up a total of 15 double-doubles and two triple-doubles, both of which came during the 2019-20 season. He’s amassed more than 1,000 points for his career (1,044 to be exact).
Conner isn’t the flashiest of players, but he brings a little bit of everything to the table on both sides of the ball. He has the shooting ability to take over a game, the court vision and IQ to find teammates for higher-percentage looks at the basket, the toughness to battle in the paint for rebounds, and the quickness to change the game on defense.
In 2021, he’s having his best year on the offensive side of the ball, averaging a career-best 19.5 points per game while shooting 54.5% from the field and 45.8% from beyond the arc.
After three seasons of not needing to be the lead scoring option, Conner is showing that he can be the go-to guy while also contributing in other areas. His rebounding and assist numbers have dropped slightly, but they don’t take away from the fact that Conner is a steady contributor in all facets of the game.
On a roster that features U SPORTS transfers Marcus Masters and Amin Suleman among other talented players, Conner is flying under the radar once more in 2021-22. That has worked for Conner in the past, allowing him to do his own thing, but it’s time to give him the attention level that his on-court production commands.
Yevgeniya (Jane) Lytvynenko, VIU Mariners Women’s Volleyball
The VIU Mariners sit in second place in the PACWEST standings after the fall semester with a record of 5-2, and Yevgeniya Lytvynenko has been a big piece of the puzzle for the Mariners.
Lytvynenko, a second-year outside hitter from Severodonetsk, Ukraine, has been having herself a strong start to the 2021-22 season. Lytvynenko closed the first half of the year ranked inside the Top 10 in kills, blocks, and aces to lead the way for VIU.
On offense, Lytvynenko ranks second in the league with an average of 3.74 kills per set. Lytvynenko has also recorded a total of 101 kills over her 27 sets, and she is the only player in the PACWEST to have amassed more than 100 kills through the first half of the year. From the service line, Lytvynenko is tied for seventh in the league with an average of 0.44 aces per set, having recorded 12 total aces to this point in the year.
Defensively, the 6’4” outside hitter ranks eighth with an average of 0.37 blocks per set. Lytvynenko is one of four VIU players to rank inside the top 10 in blocks per set, joining Linnea Brickwood (3rd; 0.59), Megan Duffy (4th; 0.44), and Kayla Passmore (9th; 0.33). She is one of five players to record double-digit blocks to this point in the season, having recorded a total of 10 blocks through the first seven games of the season.
Lytvynenko also ranks 10th in the league with an average of 2.04 digs per set, having recorded 55 digs on the year.
Through seven games, Lytvynenko has been one of the top players in the PACWEST on both sides of the ball. The Mariners are in contention atop the league standings, sitting six points behind the league-leading Douglas College Royals (8-1). Lytvynenko was named the PACWEST Women’s Volleyball Athlete of the Week for Week Five after racking up 14 kills and 19 digs against the Capilano Blues, leading VIU to the four-set win.
Bryce Mason, UKC Blue Devils Men’s Badminton
Bryce Mason is looking to close his collegiate career in style, and he’s off to a stellar start in 2021.
The fifth-year product of Cole Harbour, N.S. has excelled on the badminton court during his collegiate career, and he’s picked up where he left off in 2021 despite having the 2020 season canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In two tournaments this season, Mason has finished first in the Men’s Singles ‘A’ Finals. In both instances, Mason has knocked off his UKC teammate Jack Ronahan to secure the tournament win.
At the season’s first event on November 13th at Dalhousie Agricultural Campus, Mason rolled past Ronahan (21-19, 21-11). In the second event a week later, Ronahan made it close, but Mason came away with the three-set win (21-16, 16-21, 21-17).
In Doubles action, the team of Mason and Ronahan brought home titles at both events, completing the sweep for Mason in the process.
Mason’s strong start in 2021 comes on the heels of a successful 2019 campaign. In total, Mason picked up nine first-place finishes across Men’s Singles, Men’s Doubles, and Mixed Doubles. At the ACAA Championships, Mason and partner Riel Tetreault finished first in the Men’s Doubles competition. Then, at the CCAA National Qualifiers, Mason and Ronahan reunited to finish atop the Men’s Doubles competition.
At Nationals, Mason and Ronahan would bring home a CCAA Silver Medal, marking the second straight year that Mason picked up Silver at the National Championship.
In 2021, Mason has his sights set on that elusive Gold Medal. His start to the year has been special to say the least, and he’ll be looking to close his collegiate career atop the CCAA.
Terin Hultink, Niagara Knights Women’s Basketball
With several big names from the 2019-20 season having moved on from OCAA competition, it’s time for new faces of the league to make a name for themselves. Terin Hultink is one of those players that will be a household name by year’s end.
Hultink is a dual-sport star for the Niagara Knights, playing for the Women’s Soccer program as well as the Women’s Basketball program. She was named an OCAA South Division All-Star during the 2021 Women’s Soccer Season, and was the South Division’s leading scorer after recording nine goals and 20 points for the Knights.
After her success on the pitch in the fall, Hultink will be looking to continue that success on the hardwood in the winter and build off her strong debut season in 2019-20. As a rookie for the Knights last season, Hultink was named to the East Division All-Rookie Team.
Hultink averaged 9.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game over 15 regular season appearances in 2019-20, shooting 35.9% from the field along the way. She closed her rookie season with double-digit points in six of her last eight games, including four straight to end the year. Hultink went for a career-high 20 points on two occasions, both of which came during her four-game stretch at year’s end.
In exhibition play this year, Hultink and the Knights are a perfect 5-0, building some momentum ahead of the 2022 regular season. Hultink averaged 11.0 points and 13.2 rebounds per game during exhibition play, showcasing her talents on both ends of the floor. On November 18th against the George Brown Huskies, Hultink went for 23 points and 24 rebounds in Niagara’s 61-50 win.
If their exhibition schedule is any indication, the 2022 season could be a special one for Head Coach Chris Rao and the Niagara Knights. Leading the way is Hultink, and she’s a player to keep a close eye on as the season gets underway in January.
Griffin Bowerman, CUE Thunder Men’s Hockey
Goaltender Griffin Bowerman is having himself quite the debut season for the CUE Thunder.
The Camrose, Alberta native joined the Thunder back in April after playing for the Camrose Kodiaks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL). During the 2018-19 season with the Kodiaks, Bowerman posted a .933 save percentage over 28 games played, a percentage that ranks as the fourth-best mark in the AJHL record books.
Fast forward to the 2021-22 season, Bowerman’s first with the Thunder, and he’s putting up impressive numbers at the ACAC level. Through the first semester, Bowerman has posted a 3-0-1 record for the Thunder, who currently sit in a tie for second in the ACAC standings with the SAIT Trojans, one point behind the conference-leading NAIT Ooks.
Through his first four collegiate games, Bowerman leads the ACAC with a .956 save percentage while making a league-best 130 saves. He also ranks second in goals against average (1.44) and third in win percentage (.875).
On December 3rd against the Trojans, Bowerman was spectacular in a 2-2 draw on the road in Calgary. Bowerman made 56 saves on the day, 12 of which came over the two overtime periods. The Thunder also found themselves down two men in the second period, yet Bowerman kept the SAIT offense at bay and helped the Thunder secure the point.
While four games is a relatively small sample size, Bowerman’s collegiate career is off to a hot start. With the bulk of their games still to be played in the New Year, Bowerman and the Thunder will be put to the test. He’s passed every test to this point, which only means he’s a name to watch as the ACAC season continues to play out.
Florence Lapointe, Gaillards du CEGEP de Jonquiere Women’s Volleyball
The Gaillards du CEGEP de Jonquiere Women’s Volleyball program has been on some type of roll to start the 2021-22 season, and the play of Florence Lapointe has been a big reason for their strong start.
Through the fall semester, the Gaillards sit atop the RSEQ standings with a perfect 9-0 record, three games ahead of second place in the league. The Gaillards have dropped just one set this season, picking up eight three-set sweeps in the process.
Lapointe has been as consistent as they come on both sides of the ball to start the year, ranking inside the top 10 in several statistical categories. On offense, Lapointe ranks second with 4.29 points per set, having racked up 111.50 points over nine matches. In addition, Lapointe ranks fourth in scoring attacks, averaging 2.88 attacks per set. Lapointe has recorded 75 attacks through nine matches.
Against Andre-Laurendeau on November 19th, Lapointe recorded season-highs in attacks and points in the three-set win (31-29, 25-22, 25-21) for the Gaillards. Lapointe finished the day with 14 attacks and a total of 17.5 points to lead the offensive attack for Jonquiere.
Defensively, Lapointe ranks second in blocks, averaging 0.81 blocks per set while recording a total of 21 blocks for the year. She has recorded four blocks in a game twice in 2021-22.
The duo of Lapointe and Anne-Sofie Charette has the Gaillards flying high in 2021-22, and given her play in the first half of the season, Lapointe is one of those players to keep an eye on as the second half gets underway in mid-January.
Who else is a name that we should keep an eye on in the second half of the 2021-22 season? Let us know on social media, or in the comments below!
- T. Bennett