After a scintillating, record-setting season for UNBC Timberwolves striker Michael Henman is the Canada West Conference male soccer player of the year.
That became official when the league announced it Thursday morning and it follows last week’s news that the 24-year-old from Victoria has been selected a Canada West first-team all star.
Henman was virtually unstoppable this season when he got himself into scoring position and his 19 goals tied the all-time conference single-season record for an individual. He also recorded five game-winning goals, fifth-most in league history and collected four hat tricks.
“I am so proud of all that Michael has accomplished, not just this year, but every year since finding his way to UNBC,” said T-wolves head coach Steve Simonson, named Thursday as Canada West coach of the year. “He is an exceptional young man, and for him to accomplish what he did this season is absolutely remarkable. I have long believed that Michael was capable of special things. He is incredibly talented. To see it all come together for him this season was tremendous.
“This award is representative of a great team effort, and a lifetime of work to put himself in this spot. Today is a proud day.”
Henman captured the Canada West scoring crown with 21 points, annihilating the T-wolves records for points and goals in a season.
“All kudos to my teammates and Steve and it’s obviously nice receiving recognition like that, I just wish we could have gone further in the end; sports are hard,” said Henman.
“It was a really fun year, lots of things happened and I’m really proud of this team. Everyone enjoyed the season and hopefully we put Prince George on the map a little more.”
The T-wolves set a new team standard for wins in a season (eight) and points (19) and their 8-5-3 record left them only a few percentage points out of second place. They narrowly missed the opportunity to post a playoff game at Masich Place Stadium and last Saturday had their season end in a 5-0 loss to the Alberta Golden Bears in Edmonton.
Four of Henman’s teammates and three members of the UNBC women’s soccer team also made the all-star list, by far the highest number of all-star selections for any T-wolves’ season dating back to 2012, the year the school joined Canada West.
Henman and Simonson have known each other since was an 11-year-old, having just moved to Victoria from Langley. Simonson has been a key figure in helping Henman deal with his struggles with anxiety and mental health issues that affected him throughout most of his teenaged years and continue to challenge him as a varsity athlete.
“It was hard making that jump but I wouldn’t want to do it with any other coach, he’d been with me through it all and his belief in me made me more confident,” said Henman. “Everyone here in the school just made me feel so welcome and comfortable so I really can’t be grateful enough about that.”
The Canadian Premier League will conduct its player draft sometime in January and Henman hopes to see his name on that list. He’s always wanted to play pro soccer and that could open up the door. The psychology major has one year of U SPORTS eligibility left and plans to come back to finish his university soccer career with the T-wolves. After a 19-goal season Henman knows he’s got a tough act to follow.
“I’m not going to come back here next year and try to top that, I’ll just keep doing what I love to do, and with the enjoyment that comes with it hopefully just get into another rhythm and see where it goes,” he said.
Henman is the first UNBC athlete to win a Canada West player of the year award.
“I’m just so proud of Michael, he has overcome so many obstacles in his soccer journey and his personal journey and for him to come to UNBC and be honoured with player of the year for Canada West is so fitting, and knowing he’s got one year left just makes it that much more special,” said UNBC athletics and recreation director Loralyn Murdoch.
“I couldn’t be more happy for him. The confidence that this instills in him and in the team and coaching staff -, the guy has a bit of spring to his step right now and it’s good to see. It’s so inspirational because a lot of student athletes have struggles with mental health and lot of people have them and he’s now at a point where he’s sharing and that story is helping others. He’s overcome some of his fears, he’s got some coping strategies and it took him some time to get to where he is today and every step’s a good step.”
Eric Lajeunesse of the UBC Thunderbirds is the Canada West rookie of the year, and Sterling Kerr on the Mount Royal Cougars win the student-athlete community service award winner. They are the Canada West representatives, along with Henman and Simonson, eligible for U SPORTS national awards which will be announced next week.