York University student-athletes were in the spotlight during the last week of April when the 54th Varsity Athletics Awards were celebrated on social media.
Lions men’s soccer player Dieu Merci Yuma and track and field standout Leah Jones were named the male and female athletes of the year, respectively, as part of the annual awards celebration. Yuma is the sixth men’s soccer player to receive the honour and the first since 2017, while track and field athletes have won seven of the last eight women’s trophies.
Male Athlete of the Year: Dieu Merci Yuma, soccer
Yuma was the most dynamic offensive player in the OUA (Ontario University Athletics) this year, leading the conference in scoring, shots on goal and total shots to be named the conference player of the year, as well as a U SPORTS first-team all-Canadian and an OUA East first-team all-star. He led the Lions to first place in their division for the 14th straight year and another appearance in the OUA championship game, ultimately finishing with the silver medal.
Female Athlete of the Year: Leah Jones, track & field
Jones capped her career by reaching the top of the podium at both the conference and national championships, winning gold medals in the long jump at both meets. Her winning jump at the U SPORTS event broke a five-year school record in the event, and she also earned U SPORTS first-team all-Canadian and OUA first-team all-star honours for her performances. She also ran a relay at the conference meet, contributing 14 points to the team’s total for a fifth-place finish, and scored 10 of their 18 points at the national meet.
Also receiving major awards throughout the event were Dan Everton from the men’s volleyball team and Ellen Donaldson from the women’s hockey team, who took home the Outstanding Male Graduate Award and the Bryce M. Taylor Award, respectively, for outstanding contributions to varsity athletics over their five-year careers.
Outstanding Male Graduate Award: Dan Everton, volleyball
Everton is an extremely engaged student-athlete who has been part of many varsity initiatives throughout his career. He was the recipient of the OUA East Dale Iwanoczko Award of Merit this season due to his tremendous contributions to the varsity community at York. Over the years, he has served as a PAWS mentor, an executive member of the York Sport Council and a member of the Black and Indigenous Varsity Student-Athlete Alliance (BIVSAA). On the court, he spent three years as a setter before switching to outside hitter this year. He brings a passion and energy to practice every day that is contagious and provided strong leadership to one of the youngest teams in the OUA. His success also extends to the classroom, where he is a three-time academic all-Canadian while studying biochemistry and is currently publishing, as the first author, his undergraduate thesis.
Bryce M. Taylor Award: Ellen Donaldson, hockey
Donaldson is a highly involved student-athlete who has made her mark on a number of different initiatives within the Lions varsity community. She has become a leader within the PAWS program, serving as a mentor while also taking on a number of additional responsibilities to ensure the successful running of the program. She is also a member of the York Sport Council, driving her team’s participation in a number of community events, and she is the team representative on the newly formed EDI Council. On the ice, she is a solid defensive forward specializing in penalty killing and checking roles. She is also a key contributor to the team’s involvement with HEROS hockey and is an instructor at Northern Freeze. She will graduate with her degree in kinesiology and health science and has earned academic all-Canadian honours for her success in the classroom.
Kelsey McHolm from the women’s hockey team was named the recipient of the Charles Saundercook Memorial Trophy for exemplifying the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, enthusiasm for life and the consideration of others.
Charles Saundercook Memorial Trophy: Kelsey McHolm, women’s hockey
McHolm is one of the most recognizable student-athletes at York thanks to her passion for the Lions and her involvement in so much of varsity life. However, it has not been an easy road for her. In 2018-19, she suffered a major knee injury and chose extensive rehab instead of surgery so she could be ready for the next season. That year, she put up career numbers to help the Lions reach the OUA final and the national championship, only to have the tournament cancelled before they could play a game due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite constant rehab, another health setback – this time in the form of an infection that caused partial hearing loss – and earning her first degree from York, McHolm decided to take on a second degree so she could come back for one more season as team captain this year. She is a strong leader, an academic all-Canadian, comes to the rink every day with a smile on her face and has been at the forefront of all of the team’s community initiatives. This year, she was also one of six players from across the country selected to participate in Hockey Canada’s Athlete to Coach transition program.
Three York University Lions student-athletes were been selected as the recipients of the 2022 Lions Legacy Awards. These awards are presented to the graduating student-athletes who have, throughout their undergraduate years, made outstanding contributions to a varsity sport at York University. Leadership, dedication, enthusiasm and participation in all aspects of varsity sport are considered qualifications for this award.
Ellen Donaldson – hockey
- U SPORTS academic all-Canadian
- A solid defensive forward specializing in penalty killing and checking roles
- Member of the York Sport Council
- Team representative on the newly formed EDI Council
- PAWS mentor
- Key contributor to the team’s involvement with HEROS hockey
- Hockey instructor at Northern Freeze, teaching fundamental skills to youth hockey players
- Known within the team as the “mom” of the group
Dan Everton – volleyball
- OUA East Dale Iwanoczko Award of Merit recipient
- Three-time U SPORTS academic all-Canadian
- PAWS mentor
- York Sport Council executive member
- BIVSAA member
- Currently publishing, as the first author, his undergraduate thesis “Avoiding errors in measurements of the binding affinity of a molecular complex”
- Brings a passion and energy to practice every day that is contagious
Lauren Walter – rugby
- U SPORTS academic all-Canadian
- Spent 3 seasons with the rugby team while completing a master’s degree in Communications and Culture
- Member of the York Sport Council executive and led many successful community events (e.g. Halloween for Hunger, Adopt-a-Family)
- Part of the team’s leadership group
- Dependable, reliable and is always the first one to cheer on teammates and lift others up
Jasraj Nijjar from the men’s volleyball team, and Kiara Leveridge, a women’s basketball player, were named the top rookies of the year, and soccer master coach Carmine Isacco received the coach of the year award.
Male Rookie of the Year: Jasraj Nijjar, volleyball
Nijjar is the third volleyball player to earn this award and the first since current teammate Andrew Tauhid in 2018. He earned a place on the OUA East all-rookie team after a tremendous debut year on the court. He was the team’s floor general as the starting setter and finished ninth in the OUA in assists per set while being instrumental to the team’s growth over the course of the year.
Female Rookie of the Year: Kiara Leveridge, basketball
Leveridge is the third basketball player to be named female rookie of the year and the first since Tara Minicuci in 2006. She was named the OUA East rookie of the year and to the all-rookie team after finishing among the OUA’s top 25 in scoring and rebounding. She was third on the team in both categories and helped the Lions record their best regular season record since 2007-08.
Coach of the Year: Carmine Isacco, soccer
Isacco is York’s coach of the year for the fourth time and is the first four-time winner since the award was introduced in 2011. He once again led the men’s soccer team to a successful season as the Lions were nationally ranked each week, finished atop their division for the 14th straight year, advanced to the OUA final for the eighth straight time and won an OUA medal for the 13th time in his 14 on-field seasons. As master coach of both soccer programs, he also oversaw the women’s team’s third-place finish in the highly-competitive OUA East Division. The Lions earned a spot in the national rankings during the season and reached the OUA quarter-finals.
Other awards announced were:
Sport Council Award: Courtney Gardiner, women’s hockey
Student Therapist of the Year: Alexandria Boussey
Roar Cup: Field Hockey Team