By Nathan Cooper
This week’s Flashback Friday features the 1995-96 women’s soccer team.
Back Row (L-R): Dara Moore (Assistant Coach), Amy Dunphy, Megda Regdos, Shauna Poirier, Kelly Larkin, Maureen Riley, Tanya Fader, Sue Hunter, Sara Rush, Andrea Foreman, Tara Schiebel, Amy Joseph, Gina Matthews
Front Row (L-R): Neil Turnbull (Head Coach), Amy Harding (Manager), Tara MacNeil, Cheryl Murphy, Karen Hood, Kate Gillespie, Candy Keillor, Leahanne Turner, Eva Al-Khouri, Carolynn Fairbairn, Carolyn Campbell, Mito Duong (Manager)
New turf, new faces, same champions. The 1995-96 women’s soccer team were entering the season, after two successive seasons of winning the Atlantic University Athletic Association (AUAA) Championship. Expectations of a third title or not, there were some major changes happening within the program.
Fifteen of the players on the team were in their first or second year at Dalhousie. Although most of the team was built from youth, there was still a core group of veteran players leading the team. Among these veterans, was USPORTS First-Team All-Canadian All-Stars Kate Gillespie and Leahanne Turner.
After several weeks of training camp and preseason, the players and staff were both ready to start their season and defend the title. With Wickwire still under construction, the Tigers were forced to play their first two games off campus.
The youth-filled team got off to a very solid start in September. The Tigers scored eight goals and conceded only three. In this time, the Tigers took three wins against UPEI, SMU and MtA, while losing to Acadia.
As October rolled around, it was All-Star keeper Leahanne Turner who took charge. Turner posted four straight clean sheets. The Tigers were playing their first home games at Wickwire, when they took two 1-0 wins against MUN and Acadia. As the Tigers faced StFX in their next two games, Turner stayed flawless on the goal line, earning the Tigers two tough 0-0 draws.
To finish the regular season, the Tigers completed two more wins against SMU and UDM, while taking a 3-1 loss to UNB. The Tigers concluded the regular with a 7-2-2 record. The focus was now on the Atlantic University Athletic Association (AUAA) Championship.
The Tigers finished the season tied with Acadia at the top of the table. This earned both teams a bye week, and a spot in the semi-finals. The Tigers were now set to play StFX in the semi-final at Wickwire.
Horrendous weather conditions caused both teams to struggle to score. With a 0-0 score after regular and extra-time, the game was therefore forced into a shootout. Turner once again proved her class, not even allowing a goal in the shootout, as the Tigers won 3-0.
The Tigers win against the X-Women, set the stage for a repeat of last years final against Acadia. Karen Hood opened the scoring in the 25th minute to give the Tigers a 1-0 halftime lead. The Axe-women pushed back hard, as an unintentional handball in the box, forced a Tiger player off the pitch.
Carrying on with only ten players, the Tigers stood their ground and maintained the 1-0 lead. They were once again AUAA champions.
Though this was a great feat for the team, the Tigers were not done yet. The Tigers were three games away from defending their National Championship.
Dalhousie’s first game was against McGill. The Tigers started very strong, taking a 1-0 lead at halftime. However, the McGill team fought back in the second half, scoring two goals to defeat the Tigers. The team now had to win their next game to stay in the title race.
Coach Turnbull made some adjustments to the starting line, and the Tigers played one of their best games of the year, beating a strong Queen’s team 3-0. The Tigers now had to wait until Queen’s played McGill, to see if they would be competing in the bronze or gold medal game. Queen’s defeated McGill, and therefore the Tigers were playing in the National Finals for the third straight year.
The Tigers were set to face Wilfred Laurier in the finals. Just as it was in the previous games, the final game was played in extremely cold weather. Both teams attacked and defended with great vitality, but it was the Golden Hawks who broke the ice with an 88th minute goal. Though the Tigers fought hard, they were humbled with a silver medal finish.
The 1995-96 women’s soccer team came home as Atlantic Champions, and national silver medalists. This great season also marked the departure of four-time All-Canadian All-Star, Kate Gillespie. Kate scored five goals in her final year for the team.
In the 32 years of Tigers women’s soccer history, it was only the second time that MVP was given to two players. For her outstanding achievements, Kate shared the award with her teammate and keeper, Leahanne Turner.