Four Blues earn men's volleyball awards

Setter Simon Friesen was named a PACWEST First Team All-Star for the third season in a row. Photo Paul Yates / Vancouver Sports Pictures
Setter Simon Friesen was named a PACWEST First Team All-Star for the third season in a row. Photo Paul Yates / Vancouver Sports Pictures

CJ Pentland, CapU Sport Information Director

Four CapU Blues men’s volleyball student-athletes were honoured by the PACWEST on Wednesday afternoon, with a trio being named to the 2018-19 conference all-star team.

For the third season in a row, fourth-year Simon Friesen was named a First Team All-Star. Last year’s PACWEST and CCAA Player of the Year, the setter had another strong season leading the Blues to an 18-6 record and a #9 ranking in the CCAA. Running a balanced offence that involved all hitters from all positions, he was second in the league in assists per set with 8.36, and he averaged the seventh-most service aces with 0.47/set. He rounded out his game with 0.36 blocks/set and 1.22 digs/set.

"Simon has had another great season for the Blues, evident by his ability to connect with hitters in an ever-changing starting lineup due to injuries," said head coach Dave Dooley. "He also demonstrated his versatility by improving on his service and defensive games, and by becoming an accomplished blocker to go along with running a diverse offence."

Third-year Zarley Zalusky was named a Second Team All-Star after another dominant season at the middle blocker position. A First Team All-Star last season, Zalusky battled injuries for much of the year but managed to maintain his status one of the top middles in the league. He finished fourth in the PACWEST in blocks with 0.66/set, 10th in total offence with 2.49 points/set, and 13th in kills with 1.97/set – also being named PACWEST and CCAA Athlete of the Week on February 6. A consistent threat both in reception and transition, Zalusky’s presence drew opposing middle blocker's focus, which freed up the Blues' outside hitters and contributed to the team's high efficiency.

Third-year Jonathan Lee was recognized for being the top libero in the PACWEST, earning a spot on the Second All-Star Team. The Business Administration student led the league in digs for the second time in three seasons, with his average of 2.60/set and total of 244 topping the conference by wide margins. Playing nearly every set of the season and providing much-needed stability, he was a force in reception for the Blues – passing a large portion of the court with a 2.3 passer rating. In November he was named CCAA and PACWEST Athlete of the Week, and he is now in second place on the CapU men’s volleyball career digs leaderboard with 864.

"[Jonny] is a fearless competitor, and he led the league in digs, and also led the Blues in serve receive on a nightly basis," said Dooley. "His hard work off the court in watching video and studying opponents’ attack tendencies and service tendencies was particularly evident."

Rounding out the honours is Markus Bratsberg, who was voted to the All-Rookie Team. Aside from two games where he was injured, the high-flyer from North Vancouver’s Argyle Secondary started every game and quickly became one of the team’s top all-around threats. He finished the season 11th in the conference in kills with 2.00/set and 13th in digs with 1.56/set, also averaging a 2.3 passer rating. In the last week of January he was the PACWEST Athlete of the Week.

"Markus has a fantastic start to his post secondary volleyball career. He fought his way into the starting lineup from our first match forward, with a solid all-around game especially on the defensive side of the ball."

On Thursday CapU will start their quest for PACWEST gold and a berth at the CCAA Nationals, which the team hasn’t accomplished since 2012-13. As the #3 seed, they’ll face the #6 Columbia Bible College Bearcats on Thursday, February 21 at 2:00pm PST at the College of Rockies in Cranbrook. The Blues won all four of their meetings this season, with the latest result being a 3-1 victory on February 9. All tournament games can be viewed online at pacwestbc.tv.