Written by Carleton Sports Information
Photo by Valerie Wutti
OTTAWA, ON — Carleton University Athletics announced its 2017-18 major award winners Thursday evening at the Ravens Athletics Awards Banquet held at Lansdowne Park’s Horticultural Building.
Women’s basketball forward Elizabeth Leblanc was named the Ruth Coe Award winner as Female Athlete of the Year and men’s soccer player Gabriel Bitar was the recipient of the Male Athlete of the Year.
The Outstanding Graduating Female Athlete award was given to Heather Lindsay of women’s basketball, while football player Leon Cenerini was the recipient of the Jack Vogan Memorial Medal as Outstanding Graduating Male Athlete.
Women’s basketball head coach Taffe Charles was named Carleton’s Pat O’Brien Award winner as Ravens’ Coach of the Year for the second straight year.
Ruth Coe Award – Female Athlete of the Year
ELIZABETH LEBLANC – Women’s Basketball
In her fourth year at Carleton, Leblanc played a key role in the Ravens’ historic campaign. The 6-foot point forward was an influential force at both ends of the floor as she helped lead Carleton to a perfect 29-0 season, the OUA Critelli Cup conference title and a U SPORTS national championship title.
Leblanc had an outstanding championship tournament performance on her way to being named the 2018 U SPORTS Final 8 Championship MVP as well as a Tournament All-Star after the Ravens won the program’s first Bronze Baby Trophy.
During the 2017-18 regular season, Leblanc played 26.7 minutes of action per game – her third consecutive season leading the Ravens in floor time – averaging 10.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.1 blocks per contest.
Becky was a central figure in the Ravens’ nation-leading scoring defence that limited the competition to an average of 45.9 points per game during the regular season, which was 9.9 points better than the next best defensive team in the country.
For her efforts, Leblanc was named an OUA Second-Team All-Star, the OUA Defensive Player of the Year as well as the U SPORTS Defensive Player of the Year award, becoming the first Raven to win the national award since it was first presented in 2000-01.
This is the first major Carleton Athletics award of Elizabeth’s university career. Leblanc becomes the 12th women’s basketball player, and the seventh in the last 10 years, to win the Ruth Coe Award as Carleton University’s Female Athlete of the Year since the award’s inception in 1968-69.
Male Athlete of the Year
GABRIEL BITAR – Men’s Soccer
Bitar, native of Ottawa, ON, took the nation by storm in 2017 as he became the first Raven in program history to be named the Lou Bilek Award winner as the U SPORTS Rookie the Year.
Bitar enjoyed one of the most dominant scoring campaigns in the history of Canadian university men’s soccer, tallying a nation-high 16 goals in his debut season. The 5-foot-9 striker had four multi-goal games and scored at least one goal in 12 of 16 regular season outings, with six of his strikes resulting in game-winning moments of brilliance.
The Ottawa South United alumnus led a dangerous Carleton strike force that scored an OUA and nation leading 59 goals during the regular season, as Bitar would go on to earn the OUA East division Most Valuable Player and conference Rookie of the Year honours.
Bitar was chosen as a First-Team All-Canadian, becoming the first Carleton men’s soccer player to receive All-Canadian status since 2013. He also helped lead Carleton to an OUA silver medal and the Ravens’ first appearance at the U SPORTS nationals since 2012 where the team placed 6th overall.
This is the first major Carleton Athletics award of Gabriel’s university career. Bitar becomes the sixth men’s soccer player to be named Male Athlete of the Year since the award’s inception in 1954-55, and the first to win the award since Anson Brewster was named the co-recipient alongside Nordic Skier Matt Cook in 1999-00. Bitar becomes the first freshman to be honoured as the Male Athlete of the Year since Brett Welychka of men’s hockey in 2015-16.
Outstanding Graduating Female Athlete
HEATHER LINDSAY – Women’s Basketball
Heather’s Carleton career got off to an impressive start in 2013-14 as she was named an OUA Rookie All-Star, setting the stage for what has been a stellar five-year journey at the Ravens’ Nest.
Lindsay, a native of Ottawa, ON, ended her time as a Raven by making 100 regular season appearances, starting 82 games to finish with career averages of 11.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. The 6-foot-3 centre was a double-double machine in her final three seasons, which resulted in her cracking the 1000-point career marker during this past season and nearly reaching the 1000 rebound total during an impressive, and often dominant, time at Carleton.
Heather’s dominance inside the paint paid off in her final three years, where she was honoured with three consecutive OUA All-Star nods, including two Second-Team appearances (2015-16 & 2017-18) and a First-Team selection in 2016-17.
Lindsay’s fourth year was arguably her best individual statistical season where she won the national rebounding title and led the country in field goal percentage, eventually being named a 2016-17 Second Team All-Canadian and selected as Carleton’s Most Valuable Player. Last season, Lindsay helped the Ravens win the first of two consecutive OUA Critelli Cup championships before going on to capture a bronze medal at the 2017 U SPORTS Final 8.
In her fifth and final season, Lindsay went out on top by playing a starring role on an undefeated Ravens team that would go 29-0 during the 2017-18 season on the way to winning a second straight OUA Critelli Cup banner, before reaching the pinnacle of Canadian university sport by capturing the 2018 U SPORTS Final 8 Bronze Baby Trophy as national champions.
In addition to her tremendous effort on the court, Lindsay has also been a model student-athlete off of it with leadership roles in a variety of Athletics community efforts as well as taking on the position of the co-President of the Ravens Athletics Varsity Student Council.
This is the second major Carleton Athletics award of Heather’s university career. Lindsay was the recipient of the Ruth Coe Award as Female Athlete of the Year in 2016-17. She becomes the eighth women’s basketball player to be named Outstanding Graduating Female Athlete since the award’s inception in 1979-80, and the first to win the award since Ashleigh Cleary in 2011-12.
Jack Vogan Memorial Medal – Outstanding Graduating Male Athlete
LEON CENERINI – Football
Leon’s impact on the football field began on Day 1 at Carleton, where he was awarded a 2013 OUA All-Rookie selection after leading the entire country with a staggering 8.6 tackles per game. Cenerini’s ability to read the game and perform on a consistent basis made him a defensive stalwart throughout his career.
In five seasons at MNP Park, Cenerini started 39 games in the heart of the Ravens’ defensive unit where he averaged 7.6 tackles per game and accumulated 8.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss over his standout career. The 6-foot, 220-pound middle linebacker broke the Carleton football career tackles record during his time at the university, ending his remarkable tenure with 303 tackles (240 solo, 126 assisted). Overall, the La Salle, MB native led the OUA conference in tackles per game in three of his five seasons.
On an individual basis, Cenerini was named an OUA Second-Team All-Star in 2016, the football team’s Most Valuable Player in 2013-14 and its Doug Banton Award winner in 2015-16. Cenerini was also selected as a member of Team East at the 2016 U SPORTS East-West Bowl, joining the country’s top players at the annual national showcase.
In addition to role as one of the team’s captains on the football field, Leon has been an exemplary leader in the classroom as well. Cenerini was named a 2016-17 Academic All-Canadian thanks to his tireless effort in pursuit of a Criminology and Criminal Justice degree.
This is the first major Carleton Athletics award of Leon’s university career. Cenerini becomes the 21st football player to win the Jack Vogan Memorial Medal as Carleton’s Outstanding Graduating Male Athlete, and the first football recipient since Cameron Legault in 1998-99. Cenerini’s special honour marks the first major Carleton Athletics award won by a modern-era football player since the return of the Ravens program in the fall of 2013.
Pat O’Brien Award – Coach of the Year
TAFFE CHARLES – Women’s Basketball
This is the third major Carleton Athletics award of Taffe’s university coaching career. Charles receives the Pat O’Brien Award as Ravens’ Coach of the Year for the second straight season and for the third time overall since he became coach of the women’s basketball team in 2007-08.
In his 11th season at the helm of the Ravens women’s basketball team, Charles coached Carleton to the most successful season in program history. Charles led the Ravens to their first U SPORTS Bronze Baby national championship title, completing an undefeated regular season and playoff run to finish with an unblemished 29-0 record on the season – the first of its kind in the 47-year history of the women’s basketball program.
The Ravens dominated their OUA competition during the regular season and playoffs, where Carleton won the Critelli Cup conference championship for a second straight season.
Behind Charles’ leadership, Carleton led the OUA conference with an average margin of victory of 26.5 points per game, ranking seventh nationally in scoring at 72.4 points per game, while limiting opponents with a stifling defence that allowed only 45.9 point per game, which was the top scoring defence in the nation.
The Ravens rose to No.1 in the country for only the second time in program history and maintained their lofty status as the top-ranked team for the final four national polls of the 2017-18 season.
Coach Charles was named the recipient of the Peter Ennis Award as U SPORTS women’s basketball national Coach of the Year, becoming the first Carleton coach to receive the award since its inception in 1977-78.