Kyle Quinlan, Shanice Marcelle named CIS athletes of year

Kyle Quinlan and Shanice Marcelle were honoured Monday at the BLG Awards as the Canadian Interuniversity Sport athletes of the year.

Winners of BLG Awards

McMaster University Marauders quarterback Kyle Quinlan against the Laval University Rouge et Or in Toronto on Nov. 23, 2012. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Kyle Quinlan dreams of playing in the CFL. Shanice Marcelle is hoping to play for Canada's volleyball team at an Olympics.

Grey Cups and gold medals may yet be in their future.

Quinlan and Marcelle were honoured Monday at the BLG Awards as the Canadian Interuniversity Sport athletes of the year.

For Quinlan, the award gave him a chance to thank his McMaster Marauders teammates. A loud contingent of them were on hand at the John W.H. Bassett Theatre to support their former quarterback.

"All the guys that I've been able to play with, that's the first thing I think back on when I won this award," said Quinlan, who added he was happy the event was so close to McMaster's campus in Hamilton so his team could join him.

"I can't wait to share this with them."

Marcelle, a standout outside hitter who won a national championship in all five years she played for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, said she couldn't believe her university career was over.

"It's shocking," said Marcelle, UBC's second volleyball player to win the award after Liz Cordonier in 2010. "It doesn't really feel like it's finished, and so it will be weird not returning next year. But it's an incredible way to go out."

Awarded scholarships

Quinlan and Marcelle were each presented with a trophy and a $10,000 scholarship.

The other female nominees were Saint Mary's basketball guard Justine Colley of East Preston, N.S., McGill hockey centre Melodie Daoust of Valleyfield, Que., and Guelph rugby centre Britt Benn of Napanee, Ont.

The male candidates included Saint Mary's hockey forward Lucas Bloodoff of Castlegar, B.C., Concordia wrestler David Tremblay of Stoney Point, Ont., and UBC soccer midfielder-forward Gagan Dosanjh of Abbotsford, B.C.

Marcelle, a Victoria native, won the women's award after finishing fourth in the Canada West conference with 3.33 kills and 4.16 points per set.

The 22-year-old was also sixth in hitting percentage at .302 and seventh in service aces at 0.46, while also contributing defensively with 166 digs as UBC posted a 21-1 record during the regular season.

Winning never got boring for Marcelle at UBC. But the fifth championship, which the Thunderbirds took in March over the Alberta Pandas, was the first one Marcelle's mother flew out from Victoria for.

"To have her there, my biggest supporter, was really incredible and so I'm happy we were able to go out on top for her," Marcelle said.

That provided a perfect ending to a university career that included two CIS volleyball player of the year awards and five years on the championship all-star team.

Special athlete

Thunderbirds coach Doug Reimer, a former national team head coach, said he was hard pressed to compare Marcelle to any of his previous players.

He said occasionally he likes to joke that Marcelle has needed less coaching than any other athlete he's worked with.

"You know they have that window of five years, but I remember thinking numerous times this year there's just no way to replace right away the myriad of things Shanice does on the court and off the court. Really a special athlete," said Reimer.

Marcelle, who planned to leave on Tuesday for national team tryouts in Winnipeg ahead of the Pan American Cup in June, is hoping to sign with a European professional team.

She's hoping all her hard work pays off in a ticket to the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. Reimer pointed out Marcelle's chances are better than many other players since she has national experience playing both beach and indoor volleyball.

"That's the dream, but who knows what will happen," she said.

Quinlan's next career move has already been talked about for several years.

The 24-year-old native of South Woodslee, Ont., won the Hec Crighton Award as CIS football player of the year after leading the Marauders to an 8-0 regular season record and an appearance in the Vanier Cup where they lost 37-14 to Laval in November.

TD passes leader

Quinlan led the country with 19 touchdown passes and just two interceptions, while ranking second in passing yards per game with 307.1 and a 68.9 completion percentage. He also led all quarterbacks with seven TDs and 550 yards on the ground.

"Wise beyond his years," Marauders head coach Stefan Ptaszek said of Quinlan. "Just a calmness and in control sense in whatever he does. A leader of men, for sure."

Quinlan became the third McMaster football player to win the CIS award after former CFL player Jesse Lumsden in 2005 and Kojo Aidoo in 2001.

Quinlan said the thought of trying to play football in America, or anywhere else but McMaster for that matter, never occurred to him.

"I don't know, I wasn't that good to be honest," he said. "I had a lot of growing to do coming out of high school. I was a decent player but looking back on it I wouldn't change that for a second."

The six-foot-three, 210-pound QB, who was also nominated at the BLG Awards last year after leading McMaster to its first Vanier Cup victory in 2011, signed a three-year contract with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes in December.

Canadian quarterbacks are a rare breed, with stiffer competition for CFL jobs coming from south of the border where skilled players have more experience.

Quinlan, who has attended training camps with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Alouettes in the past, hopes to change that.

"Obviously there's a big jump there and it's a jump that I'm aware of after two camps," said Quinlan. "I'm just excited to have the opportunity to be able to continue my playing career. I've been given that opportunity by Montreal and hoping to run with it."

Ptaszek said he hopes the Als look past Quinlan being a Canadian and judge him on his own merits. "If he gets that, then let the chips fall were they may," said Ptaszek.

With his memorable university career now behind him, exchanging a Marauders jersey for an Alouettes one is the goal for Quinlan.

"I'm excited to get in there and give it a go."