The Ontario University Athletic awards were handed out earlier this month and among the winners was Ladner volleyball player Cassidy Chang, who received the Award of Merit.
The Royal Military College (RMC) product finished the season in the top 10 in assists and assists per set, important for someone who plies their trade as a setter, but Chang was still "shocked" when she heard she had won the award.
"I knew my coach had put my name in for an award but there are so many amazing girls in the league and I never thought I stood a chance," said the 22-year-old.
She is hoping it paves the way for future military athletes.
Chang was nominated by RMC Paladins head coach Joely Christian-Macfarlane, who said, "This award reflects so much more than just being a volleyball player. It is about committing to being the best possible person you can be both on the court and off. Cassidy constantly strives to be her best in the classroom, on the court and actively sought a leadership role that would place extreme demands on her time."
Chang was also named the top engineering student at RMC.
That's just par for the course when you consider she's been on the Principal's Honour Roll for the past three years while upholding the college's four pillars of bilingualism, athletics, academics and military.
"It means a lot," said RMC athletics director Darren Cates. "It is always special when an RMC athlete receives recognition from the OUA or CIS. Cassidy has excelled in all areas during her time at RMC, both in the classroom and on the court. She has truly defined what it means to be a student-athlete."
Chang attended Ladner Elementary, where she was enrolled in the French immersion program. She continued her studies at McRoberts Secondary in Richmond.
This award comes as no surprise to her high school volleyball coach, Trish Nicholson.
"She had high expectations of herself and of her teammates," Nicholson said. "She didn't have the best skills but she always worked the hardest to overcome any skill deficits. She didn't shy away from hard work or hard courses and she never took the easy route, always hitting challenges head on."
It's a sentiment echoed by Christian-Macfarlane: "She works hard all the time and isn't afraid to ask the same of her teammates. She does a great job
of leading by example and as a result her teammates respect her and try to keep up with her intensity."
The 5-foot-8 Chang wasn't so sure she would have the opportunity to play for the team this year with all of her leadership and academic responsibilities.
Christian-Macfarlane recognized the fluidity of the situation and made allowances.
"We built her training around her schedule at the college and their needs for her as a member of their leadership team. We selected which nights she would focus on her academics/leadership and adjusted as needed."
That required discussion and compromise from both sides and included such steps as writing exams on the road. Christian-Macfarlane recognized the benefits to the player if she were to stay on for her last year.
"I also knew after working with her for one season that there was so much more she could develop for the next stage in her volleyball career, which is likely leading the offense for our military national team," Christian-Macfarlane explained.
Not surprisingly, Chang held up her end of the bargain, getting to 98 per cent of the practices and games, according to her coach.
She missed only three games the entire season, two of them due to a concussion she received at practice after taking a serve off the back of the head.
Helping balance everything for Chang was the opportunity to play alongside her identical twin sister, Delanie, who is the team captain.
"It is actually really amazing having my twin sister here with me. We really understand each other when it comes to sports. So having her as one of my main hitters and next to me playing on the court really gives me a boost of confidence. Not to mention she is a consistent player I can always count on."
This is the first Award of Merit for any RMC Paladins player.