02/25/2015 09:45 EST | Updated 04/27/2015 05:59 EDT

Manitoba's Cockrell named university women's volleyball player of the year

TORONTO - Rachel Cockrell, a fourth-year right side hitter from the University of Manitoba, was named the CIS player of the year in women's volleyball on Wednesday night.

A native of Winnipeg, Cockrell became the sixth Mary Lyons Award recipient from the Bisons' program, and the first since Kathy Preston in 2001-02.

"Everyone who saw Rachel play this year, be it the fans, the opposition, or our own team, knew they were seeing a pretty special athlete at her very best," said 29-year Manitoba head coach Ken Bentley. "Rachel joins some very elite company, as she is the fifth athlete from our program to be selected as the player of the year in Canada. She has been an absolute pleasure to coach over her career at Manitoba."

Cockrell was first in the country in kills per set (5.06), total kills (471), total points (535.5) and points per set (5.8). She was dominant throughout the season as she led the defending CIS champions to a sixth-place Canada West finish with a 13-11 record and was selected as team captain for a third consecutive campaign.

She finished the season in style with 29 kills in the quarter-final series finale on Feb. 14, a new Canada West playoff record.

Other major award winners announced during the CIS Awards Gala were Calgary outside hitter Kate Pexman, who captured the Mark Tennant Award as rookie of the year; Brandon's Donata Huebert, who earned top-libero honours for the third time; UNB setter Paige Paulsen, who got the Therese Quigley Award for her excellence in volleyball, academics and community service; as well as Toronto's Kristine Drakich, who became the first Varsity Blues head coach to receive the Marilyn Pomfret Award.