Ben Ball

By Howard Tsmura - Vancouver Province - LINK to Story

LANGLEY, British Columbia — For the 10,000-plus athletes who compete annually in Canadian Interuniversity Sport, you could say there are five degrees of difficulty to navigate on the road to a dream season.

First, be named your school's Athlete of the Year. Next, in the case of those at B.C. schools, be named your sport's Canada West Athlete of the Year. Further still, be named your sport's CIS national Athlete of the Year. Then, not only lead your team to a CIS national championship title, but in the process be named the MVP of that title game.

Trinity Western's Ben Ball and Robyn Pendleton of UBC each accomplished all of those feats in 2011-12, amid the dramatic back-drop of competing in their final sea-sons of CIS play. On Wednesday the pair were named the Canada West's nominees for the BLG Awards, the annual presentations emblematic of the CIS' overall male and female Athletes of the Year.

The two were each joined by respective male and female honor-ees from the CIS' three other member conferences in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. One male and one female winner will each receive a $10,000 postgraduate scholarship when the winners are announced April 30 in Calgary.

Ball, the setter from Abbotsford's MEI Secondary and a 2007 member of The Province's Head of the Class, helped the Spartans win back-to-back national titles. His unique set-ting style not only allowed him to average a CIS single-season best average of 11.54 assists per set, but helped TWU hold the No. 1 national ranking the entire season while fashioning a team record 34-2 record.

"It's a massive honour," Ball said. "I remember when [former TWU greats] Chris Meehan [2006] and Josh Howatson [2007] were each nominated for this, and Josh won. I can remember reading about all of that and thinking how incredible it was, but never considering that I would be in the same spot. So it's a bit overwhelming right now."

TWU head coach Ben Josephson has seen Ball become the heartbeat of the team, praising his senior for bringing the full package of skills and intangibles to the court.

"We use the analogy of the teeter-totter where he is the hinge," he said. "As one guy goes up and down, it all revolves around his ability to keep the ship afloat. So to have a personality like that on the team, who plays to make everyone better, it's what is at the core of the (setter) position, and it's why we have been able to be so successful over the past two years."

Pendleton, a Victoria native, becomes the fourth straight UBC female to earn BLG nominee status. Swimmer Annamay Pierse (2009) and volleyball players Liz Cordonier (2010) and Shanice Marcelle (2011) were also nominated. Pierse and Cordonier both won the award.

Adding to her dream season was the fact that she not only helped the Birds win a record 13th McCrae Cup national field hockey title, but also helped her school win in the final year of longtime head coach Hash Kanjee's gold-studded career.

Yet as quickly as the individual honours piled up for Pendleton, she just as swiftly packed her bags to embark on a professional career in France, and that's where she joined the rest of the BLG nominees Wednesday via conference call.

"Our seasons don't get much better than the one we just had," she explained. "It was nice to end my [CIS] career with such success in everything. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform at nationals, and so to win the championship was huge for us."

Yet Pendleton left the Point Grey campus before the school's 2011-12 academic year was complete, so she missed being honoured as a co-winner of UBC Female Athlete of the Year award with golfer Kylie Barros at the school's Big Block Awards.

"It's tough because so much of what happens when you play for a university team happens in the off-season," explained Pendleton. "But my [former] teammates have been incredibly supportive, and everyone has done a good job of keeping me in the loop.

"And I owe so much to Hash. He has always been such a big supporter for us, not just as athletes, but as students. He's always wanted the best for us, and I think that helped us give our best on the field each day."


A look at the eight nominees for the 20th annual BLG (Borden Ladner Gervais) Awards honouring the CIS male and female athletes of the year, which will be announced April 30 in Calgary:


Robyn Pendleton (field hockey), UBC

Tyson Beukeboom (rugby), St. Francis Xavier

Anne-Sophie Bettez (hockey), McGill Jacey Murphy (rugby), Guelph


Ben Ball (volleyball), Trinity Western Andrew Clark (hockey), Acadia Marc-Andre Dorion (hockey), McGill

Kyle Quinlan (football), McMaster

Last Updated: 2012-04-19
Author: Mark Janzen