There was not a lot of drama to the Athletes of the Year presentation at the 2022 (Collège Boréal) Vipères Gala – having a pair of athletes accomplish something never before done in school history tends to make for obvious choices – but the Rookies of the Year, thankfully, were able to shine a little spotlight on a feeder school system less than an hour away.
Both Stéphane Philion and Jayme Landry are products of the Franco-Cité Patriotes volleyball system, a program that has featured a number of future OCAA starters, at one position in particular, most notably. “It must be a little bit of a Sturgeon (Falls) thing, having setter hands at Franco-Cité,” said Landry, alluding to her cross-town idol and perennial all-star, Isabelle Rivest, at Cambrian College.
“I love being setter because I get to be involved in almost every point. I get to put a good ball up for my teammates and get to see them hit a ball and get so excited.”
The 19 year-old first year setter with the Vipères benefits from a volleyball background that included OVA club team play in her hometown, as well as North Bay and Sudbury. “Seeing so many different coaches, there’s so many different coaching tactics,” said Landry. “You get all types of experiences of the coaches, so we get to see different drills, different things that we can use to help our game.”
That is a virtual necessity given that almost every year, Boréal volleyball has to overcome a starting point of being typically the most under-sized team in the league. “We were a very short team so I had to make sure that I placed my sets in positions where the girls could hit around the blockers,” said Landry.
“We’re playing against girls that are 6’3”, 6’4” – and I think we had girls hitting out of the left side that are 5’4”.”
Twenty years old but also in his first year at Boréal, Philion understands exactly where Landry is coming from, having made the move from setter to left side while in high-school. “It wasn’t all about smashing the ball as hard as you could, trying to hit the floor here,” he said. “It was a lot more technical shots, tipping and stuff.”
“That’s how I adjusted to bigger teams, bigger players.”
More than anything, Philion was thankful for the scope of volleyball knowledge that he garnered at Franco-Cité. “Just learning the sport, in general, the base of the movements really helped me here,” he said. “And I think being a setter helped me with my passing, just because you’re touching the ball all of the time.”
As for the obvious choices, badminton stars Michelle Kozlowskyj and Frédéric Houle were recognized as Female and Male Athlete of the Year, respectively, just a month or so after capturing bronze medals in mixed doubles play at the 2022 CCAA Badminton Championships in Alberta.
Doing so, the northern Ontario tandem (Kozlowskyj is from Sudbury; Houle from Elliot Lake) became the first ever representatives of Collège Boréal to ascend to the podium at a national tournament or meet.
Rounding out the award winners for the evening were:Women's Volleyball
Most Valuable Player: Madeline Shier
Best Performing Player: Mégan Ouellette-Destin
Most Improved Player: Sarah Ethier
Top Rookie: Jayme Landry
Unsung Hero: Brianne Morin
Most Valuable Player: Grégoire Mrochek
Best Performing Player: Stéphane Philion
Most Improved Player: Jaden Chouinard
Top Rookie: Stéphane Philion
Unsung Hero: Alexandre Léger
Best Performing Player: Michelle Kozlowskyj
Top Rookie: Kristen Vane
Most Valuable Player: Frédéric Houle
Best Performing Player: Frédéric Houle
Most Improved Player: Domenic St-Aubin
Tiop Rookie: Charles de la Riva
Denis Dionne Award
Kristen Vane - women's badminton
Patrick Boileau - coach - volleyball