For the likes of Tiffany Johnson (women’s soccer) and Mary Strain (cross-country), being in the spotlight, having their achievements recognized, is a way of life as members of the Cambrian College Varsity Athletics family.
The same could not always be said for Golden Shield men’s soccer defender Nicholas Walker.
Yet it was the Johnson-Strain-Walker trio that scooped up top honours last week as the group hosted their 51st annual Athletic Banquet, celebrating another season of OCAA (Ontario Colleges Athletic Association) competition.
Mary Strain and Nicholas Walker were recognized as Female and Male Athlete of the Year, respectively, while Tiffany Johnson was singled out for Special Recognition Award, an acknowledgment to a historical career at Cambrian, one which would see her rewrite the OCAA women’s soccer record books.
While both Strain and Johnson garnered attention for their achievements on a national scale, Walker was being appreciated far closer to home. “Nick’s consistent, mature and solid performances during practices, games and off-field sessions made him a very deserving recipient,” noted head coach Giuseppe Politi.
A graduate of Lockerby Composite and long-time member of the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club, Walker acknowledged a change to the way that he envisioned his responsibilities with the Shield in this, his third year with the team.
“This year, I was taking on more of a leadership role,” said the second year Business student, who definitely plans to return to the pitch in September. “A lot of the guys had graduated the previous year. Being able to get through the whole season, with everyone behind me, helping to keep the whole team together, that was a big thing for me.”
“To be in the playoff hunt right to the end, grinding all season long with this group of guys, it’s a huge bonus for me, and for the coaching staff.” Slotted into what is acknowledged as the toughest and deepest division of the OCAA (and the entire CCAA, for that matter), Walker and his mates have their work cut out, just to reach post-season play.
Interestingly enough, the Sudbury native suggested that the biggest obstacle to overcome may lie away from the field of play. “I think we really just need to believe in ourselves,” he said. “We beat the teams below us, but against the teams that finished above us, we really fell off.”
“Just believing in ourselves, believing that we can pull something off against those teams, that’s going to be crucial to getting a playoff spot in the future.” It’s a goal towards which Walker is fiercely passionate, more than willing to put in the work for at least one more full season of soccer.
“It’s all about the friends I make, the family aspect of being part of this Cambrian soccer team,” he explained. “I’ve met people over the three years that I’ve been here that I will be friends with for my entire life. That, for me, makes it all worthwhile.”
And while that “team aspect” may not cover nearly as wide a spectrum when one is referencing the Cambrian cross-country squad, it’s not as though a similar sentiment does not exist within that tight-knit group as well. “The team atmosphere was excellent this year, it really helped to create a successful season,” noted Strain, who can now lay claim to both a gold and silver medal provincially, as well as a silver medal on a national scale in 2016.
“I’m proud of Emily (Marcolini – OCAA bronze medal winner) and myself, being able to work together as a team throughout the whole season. Having Emily around helped me in training, and it helped me on the courses. We strategized together, made plans to stick together and use each other as motivation.”
It’s been a little over four months since the Cambrian duo battled it out with the very best in the country at the CCAA Championships in Blainville, Québec. At this point in her training, Strain is just beginning to really start ramping things up.
“My winter training is going well,” she said. “I like to have a base. I really start giving it my all during the summer time, but I do find it important to keep my body moving and my lungs active. It’s not as much of a shock, and it helps prevent injuries.”
Named as CCAA Women’s Soccer Player of the Year last November in Halifax, Tiffany Johnson was singled out at the Cambrian banquet, with a Special Recognition Award plaque prepared to outline some of her many amazing accomplishments.
Highlighting the new OCAA standard for goals scored in both a single season (28 – 2016) and a career (83), the Sudbury Canadians’ product compiled an astounding soccer resume at Cambrian, that included CCAA All-Canadian status, OCAA Player of the Year honours, as well as a place on the OCAA first team all-star squad. She would receive her CCAA ring at the Golden Shield banquet last week.
Remaining Award Winners included:
Cross-Country Running: MVP – Mary Strain (women) and Erich Mundt (men); Coach’s Award – Emily Marcolini; Rookie of the Year – Shawn Belanger
Women’s Soccer: Coach’s Award – Marissa Falvo; Rookie of the Year – Ashley Nollner
Men’s Soccer: MVP – Nicholas Walker; Coach’s Award – Augustus Oku; Rookie of the Year – Masoud Mahmoud
Women’s Volleyball: MVPs – Hayley Chisholm and Isabelle Rivest; Coach’s Award – Jillian Vallier; Rookie of the Year – Isabelle Rivest
Men’s Volleyball: MVP – Lucas Claveau; Coach’s Award – Mitchell Reid; Rookie of the Year – Cole Krassey
Peter Guy Memorial Bursary: Erich Mundt
Vern Dow Memorial Bursary: Marissa Falvo
#ShieldCares Legacy Award: Mitchell Reid
Mr Nero Painting Bursary: Ryan Martel
Sudbury Masters Running Club Bursary: Gergely Szabo, Shawn Belanger, Mary Strain, Megan Lloyd-Wismer, Erich Mundt, Emily Marcolini, Kevin Jeanveau
SIRC-CCAA Academic All Canadians: Mary Strain
Coaches Eric Leishman (cross-country – 5 years), Tom Sutton (men’s volleyball – 5 years) and Matt Binks (soccer – 15 years) were also recognized for their contributions to Cambrian varsity athletics.