By Thomas Becker (with files from UPEI archives)
No one could have anticipated how good 2004's women's soccer team would be.
After a subpar 2003 in which the UPEI Panthers finished with the third worst record at 3-5-5, expectations were understandably low.
But they didn't care. They believed in themselves and what they were capable of and it showed on the field.
Head coach Mike Redmond came in and instantly brought a winning culture to a program that was hungry for success. Under his guidance, the Panthers finished with an astounding 10-1-2 record and were easily the best team in the conference.
Janelle Blanchard led the team in scoring and finished third overall with nine goals, followed closely by teammate Meredith Cameron, who recorded eight. Amy Connolly orchestrated many of the goals with her efficient play in midfield and put away four goals her self.
During a blustery AUS Final at Wickwire Field in Halifax, the high-flying Panthers took care of the Dalhousie Tigers 2-0 to claim their first and only conference title.
Goaltender Leslie Bradshaw recorded her seventh consecutive shutout in that game (10 for the season), including a string of 706 (11 hours, 46 minutes) without allowing goal.
UPEI moved on to nationals where they made their first appearance. The competed hard, but ultimately came up short, losing 1-0 to the host Montréal Carabins.
"Our AUS championship was the result of hard work, determination and trust in each other, and an underlying grit that permeated the whole team," said Kim Gill, who played centre back for the team. "We refused to give up and we worked hard for each other, which ultimately led to our success as a team."
Blanchard, Cameron and Elizabeth McPhail were named AUS 2nd-Team All-Stars, while Connolly earned an AUS 1st-Team All-Star nod and was also named a CIS Tournament All-Star.
Redmond's turnaround of the team earned him AUS and CIS Coach of the Year Awards.
"Coaching this group of young women was a special journey," Redmond said. "From the coaching staff, trainers, and athletic department we were all very proud to make history for UPEI."