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Isaac Heslinga named Canada West Male Athlete of the Year

Coming off dominant seasons that saw them lead their respective teams to national championships, Alberta men’s volleyball standout Isaac Heslinga and UBC women’s soccer star Katalin Tolnai have been crowned the 2023-24 Canada West Athletes of the Year.

Heslinga becomes the second straight Alberta men’s volleyball player to be named Canada West’s male athlete of the year, following in the footsteps of former teammate Jordan Canham. Heslinga powered the Golden Bears to the summit of U SPORTS Men’s Volleyball this past March, while also capturing every individual accolade on the way.

Tolnai and Heslinga will move forward as the Canada West nominees for the prestigious Lois and Doug Mitchell U SPORTS Athletes of the Year Awards, which honour the nation’s top male and female student-athletes.U SPORTS will announce their winners on June 10th in Calgary. 

For the second-straight season, the best male athlete in Canada West is from Golden Bears Volleyball. 

Third-year outside hitter Isaac Heslinga powered the Golden Bears to the summit of U SPORTS Men’s Volleyball in 2023/24, while also capturing every individual accolade on the way. 

The former Canadian Jr Team member and Canadian NextGen Captain led the Golden Bears to a record 15th Canada West title, and record-tying 10th U SPORTS Championship in Kingston — their second national title in three seasons. 

Heslinga was named the 2023/24 Canada West Player of the Year, U SPORTS Player of the Year, and U SPORTS Championship MVP. Highlighting his remarkable season was his performance at the U SPORTS Championship, which saw Heslinga record an astonishing 80 kills over three matches, including a program-record 32 kills in the Bears quarter-final win over Laval. 

“Isaac has had a very impressive year which anyone can see through the stat lines, he’s been our top point scorer and leading receiver making him a very well-rounded player. Isaac is very detailed and extremely motivated, I’m very proud of him for the investment he has put into our team and his craft,” said Bears Volleyball head coach Brock Davidiuk. “I’m sure being recognized for the outcome of this investment is a real honour for Isaac, especially to follow in the footsteps of last year’s Player of the Year and former teammate Jordan Canham. Isaac’s capacity for growth is very impressive as is his volleyball IQ. His burgeoning leadership role on the court and in the locker room have made a huge impact on our success this year.”    

The Orangeville, Ont. product finished fourth in Canada West with 373 kills and third with 446.5 points in conference play, adding 39 aces and 142 digs. His remarkable .380 attack percentage was tops in the conference and second in U SPORTS, as he led the Golden Bears to an 18-6 record and the No. 1 seed in Canada West.

His kill total is the third most ever for a Bear in a single season, while his 4.14 kills per set is the highest by an Alberta athlete since 2000. Only one Bear has ever recorded more than Heslinga’s 446.5 points in a single season.    

Heslinga is the 10th Golden Bear or Panda to be the Canada West Athlete of the Year, and be nominated for the U SPORTS Lieutenant Governor Award. He is aiming to become the second Bears Volleyball student-athlete to win this award, and first since Joel Schmuland in 2009.

“It is my great pleasure to congratulate Isaac on all that he accomplished in a very special 2023-24 season. Isaac and his teammates provided Golden Bears volleyball fans with opportunities to cheer and share in the teams’ successes all season long,” said UofA Interim Athletic Director Katie Spriggs. “Those of us that are fortunate to know just a bit more about Isaac are even more impressed by what he can do on the court because we know the person and student that he is off the court. Isaac brings an amazing combination of humility, work ethic, dedication and ability to the court and the classroom each and every day. He certainly deserves the place he has earned among the great Golden Bears volleyball student-athletes that we have been privileged to have represent the University of Alberta.”

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