CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – UPEI Panthers dominated the major awards Wednesday as Atlantic University Sport (AUS) announced its year-end women’s basketball awards.
The Panthers starting five were all recognized in one form or another as UPEI women won four of the six major awards.
Guard Reese Baxendale was named the top rookie, centre Carolina Del Santo the defensive player of the year, Jane McLaughlin the AUS Tracy MacLeod award nominee and Kiera Rigby received the student-athlete community service award.
Point guard Jenna Mae Ellsworth was named a second team all-star, Rigby a first team all-star and Baxendale made the all-rookie squad.
“It’s great for our program,” head coach Greg Gould said.
“It’s a team game,” he added, and “nobody wins an individual award by themselves.”
Acadia’s Paloma Anderson was named the MVP while her bench boss, Len Harvey, was named top coach.
It is the second year in a row a Panther has earned the rookie award, as Baxendale’s backcourt partner, Jenna Mae Ellsworth, earned the honour last year.
A five-foot-eight guard from Sussex, N.B., Baxendale led all AUS rookies in points, averaging 10.2 per game. She added three rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game while starting all 20 games for UPEI.
Del Santo, a six-foot-one centre from Barcelona, Spain, led the nation in blocks, averaging 2.4 per game. The second-year Panther finished second in the country and first in the conference in rebounds, averaging 12.5 per game, while her 250 total rebounds set a new AUS single-season record. Del Santo also added 1.4 steals, 9.2 points and 1.7 assists per game.
“She anchors our defence with shot blocking, rebounding and steals,” Gould said.
The Tracy MacLeod award recognizes a women's basketball player who demonstrates determination, perseverance and unwavering spirit to continue playing the game of basketball.
A fourth-year forward from Fortune, McLaughlin averaged 7.2 points, five rebounds and 1.6 assists per game this season.
In her sophomore year, McLaughlin made the difficult decision to step away from the sport in order to seek treatment for mental illness. After taking time to focus on her mental health and recovery, McLaughlin rejoined the Panthers team in the 2015-16 season and averaged a career-high 10.7 points per game.
She has continued to thrive both on the court and in the classroom with UPEI’s nursing program for the past three seasons. McLaughlin used her experiences to become an ambassador for Bell Let's Talk Day.
“Jane really brought some attention to an important area in terms of student health,” Gould said.
Rigby, a five-foot-11 forward from Charlottetown, achieved success on the basketball court and in the classroom, while also being heavily involved in the community.
She averaged 18.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and two assists. The science student has a 3.9 GPA and is on her way to receiving a fifth academic all-Canadian honour.
“I thought Kiera had a banner year,” Gould said.
Since June, she has logged more than 80 volunteer hours in the physical medicine and emergency departments of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. She serves as the external communications and community outreach co-ordinator for the World University Services of Canada (WUSC). Rigby has also volunteered her time with the Arthritis Society, as well as the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and Run for the Cure.
Gould said he was pleased for his players to be recognized, but said there’s another award they are working towards.
“Those are all individual awards in a team game and, ultimately, our prize is to try and win a championship, and I think everyone of the players feel the same way.”
The Panthers play UNB Friday at 3 p.m. in the AUS quarter-final in Halifax.
A look at the Atlantic University Sport women’s basketball award recipients announced on Wednesday:
MVP – Paloma Anderson, Acadia.
Rookie of the year – Reese Baxendale, UPEI.
Defensive player of the year – Carolina Del Santo, UPEI.
AUS Tracy MacLeod Award nominee – Jane McLaughlin, UPEI.
Student-athlete community service award – Kiera Rigby, UPEI.
Coach of the year – Len Harvey, Acadia.
First team all-stars:
Paloma Anderson, Acadia.
Alison Keough, Cape Breton.
Kiera Rigby, UPEI.
Hannah Brown, Cape Breton.
Alexandra Berry, Acadia.
Second team all-stars:
Kennisha-Shanice Luberisse, Saint Mary’s.
Sydney Stewart, Memorial.
Jenna Mae Ellsworth, UPEI.
Haley McDonald, Acadia.
Laura Kaye, UNB.
Reese Baxendale, UPEI.
MacKenzee Ryan, Cape Breton.
Kimberly Kingsbury, St. FX.
Ariel Provo, Dalhousie.
Cameron Longley, Memorial