Nicole Vercaigne’s experiences at Lakehead University will be remembered for more than just her time on the court.
For her dedication to athletics, academics and the community, the graduating member of the Lakehead Thunderwolves volleyball program received the Hank Akervall Memorial Award at the university’s annual athletic awards celebration.
Vercaigne, who hails from Winnipeg, says the responsibility of managing sport and school during her four years has really shaped her for the rest of her life.
“I’ve learned so much in terms of work ethic and time management,” she said on Saturday in terms of her personal development during her time in Thunder Bay.
“There are so many things you can really apply. People don’t always realize you’re (more than) an athlete but it really does develop who you are as a person.”
The left-side attacker has seen the program undergo a radical transformation from when she first arrived in the city as a rookie in the fall of 2010.
The team won a combined four regular season games during her first two seasons, including a 1-17 record in 2011-2012, but has gone on to make the playoffs in each of her final two campaigns and have achieved some upset victories over favoured opponents.
Under head coach Chris Green, the team has been striving to increase the footprint of the sport locally with the goal of building a team at the grassroots level.
Knowing that she played a role in growing the sport in the city is special for Vercaigne.
“It’s something that’s unique to Lakehead being part of the whole thing in the community,” she said.
“We’ve been doing camps to try to grow volleyball in a community that really hasn’t had much for volleyball in the past. It’s something we can really say we’ve been a part of and a big change in the community.”
Vercaigne, 21, is set to graduate with a degree in Kinesiology and hopes to pursue Occupational Therapy and further her education.
Winning the Akervall award, which is given to one student-athlete every year, caught her by surprise but she said it made her appreciate and reflect on her entire four year journey.
“It means so much to be noticed for the all the hard work,” Vercaigne said.
“We put in so much work and it’s easy to get caught up in it and not realizing it. You think it’s your everyday experience but getting recognized for it is honouring and rewarding.”
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