Oakland Earns NCAA Bid to Finish Dream Season
The Oakland University womens soccer team set three goals at the beginning of the 2001 season, win the Mid-Continent Conference regular season title, win the Mid-Con tournament and earn the first automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Golden Grizzlies did just that. They went perfect in conference play 5-0, outscoring their opponents 22-5, and breezed through the tournament downing IUPUI 4-0 and Oral Roberts 3-0. OU went onto the NCAA tournament as they traveled to South Bend, Indiana to play Cincinnati. The Golden Grizzlies held a 2-0 lead, but fell 3-2 on an own goal in the final three minutes. Oakland finished the season at 16-4-1, which ties the most wins an OU team has ever had. The Grizzlies tied a school record with nine consecutive games without a loss.
Oakland took away many awards in the 2001 season. Senior Anita Rapp (Lillehammer, Norway/Lillehammer) earned her second Co-Player of the Year inside the Mid-Con. Rapp also earned tournament MVP honors after scoring the game-winners in each game. The other two senior captains, Ashley McGhee (Burlington, Ontario/Lester B. Pearson) and Gail Wilson (Burlington, Ontario/Notre Dame Prep), earned all-tournament honors as well. Sophomore Sarah Buckland (Burlington, Ontario/Lester B. Pearson) earned the honor after not allowing a goal in both games.
The regular season witnessed nine Golden Grizzlies earning all-conference honors. First teamers included seniors Rapp, McGhee, Wilson, juniors Kim Moore (Georgetown, Ontario/Georgetown District) and Christine Selesky (Warren/Warren Mott) and sophomore Shelly Piccirillo (Niagara Falls, Ontario/North Myer). The second-team honorees included junior Debbie Cartmel (Merseyside, England/De La Salle) and Buckland. Freshman Katie Arnott (St. Johns, Newfoundland/Bishops College) earned Newcomer of the Year honors after scoring two goals and four assists.
Along with awards, OU players broke some individual school records. McGhee ended the season with 14 goals and 49 for her career, best in OU history. Rapp finished her career with 120 points, tied for the best ever in school history, with McGhee finishing her career with 119. Rapp ended her career with 38 assists, two behind the most and Wilson finished third with 30. Head coach Nick OShea reached the century mark against Michigan State (10/18) and finished the year with a 103-32-6.
The season began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin August 31-September 2 as Oakland participated in the Verizon Wireless Tournament co-hosted by UW-Milwaukee and #24 Marquette. Iowa was the final team in the tourney. The Golden Grizzlies matched up against the 24th ranked team in the land (8/31). OUs Rapp scored the first goal of the game and assisted on the game-winner as Oakland downed the Golden Eagles 2-1. Oakland then took on UW-Milwaukee and defeated them 5-0 as McGhee and Rapp netted two goals apiece. Oakland won the first annual Verizon Wireless Tournament with Rapp earning most valuable offensive player and Buckland earning most valuable defensive player. Oakland 2-0.
Oakland returned home to face Wisconsin, whom OU has never defeated. With a high vote of confidence the Grizzlies had a letdown falling to the Badgers 3-0. The two teams were tied at the half, but UW scored 65 minutes into the game and it forced the Grizzlies to press. Wisconsin took advantage of the press and set OU back at 2-1.
After dropping its home opener, Oakland welcomed IPFW to Rochester September 9. The Golden Grizzlies scored six times in the pouring rain and defeated the Mastadons 6-0. Beth Howson (Grosse Pointe/South) and Piccirillo had two goal efforts in the win. Oakland 3-1.
The Golden Grizzlies took their act on the road for the next three games. Purdue was first on the list as Oakland traveled to West Lafayette September 17. OUs Rapp answered the call with the game-winning goal and Buckland recorded her first shutout of the season as OU defeated Purdue 2-0. Youngstown, Ohio was the next stop for the Grizzlies September 19. Redshirt freshman Laura Cowham (Caledonia/East Kentwood) played well in her first start in goal as she made two saves en route to her first collegiate shutout. Piccirillo netted the only goal. The final game of the road trip was in Los Angeles, California against Southern California (9/24). USC jumped out to an early lead, but Howson answered as the game was tied 1-1 at the 66:38 minute mark. The Lady Trojans scored another goal 70 minutes into the game and a final goal with just two minutes remaining ending Oaklands three-game winning streak 3-1. Oakland improves to 5-2 on the season.
Oakland then returned home for a two-game homestead against Mid-Con opponents Southern Utah (9/28) and IUPUI (9/30). Southern Utah was a first year program and OU took advantage scoring a season-high eight goals, downing the Thunderbirds 8-0. Cowham made four saves in her second shutout of the season, while Cartmel netted three goals. McGhee chipped in with two goals herself and Rapp had a goal and two assists. The Golden Grizzlies jumped on IUPUI early and put them away 6-1. The lone Jaguar goal came on a penalty kick as Cartmel and McGhee reversed roles with McGhee getting the hat trick and Cartmel scoring twice. Oakland moved to 7-2, 2-0 Mid-Con.
Another three-game road trip was next on tap for the Grizzlies. Oakland traveled to in-state rival Detroit October 3rd. OUs Cartmel remained a scoring machine scoring three goals for her second hat trick in five days and eight goals in three games. Buckland earned her second shutout of the season. Oakland returned to conference play Saturday, October 6 in Macomb, Illinois. The Golden Grizzlies jumped out to a 3-0 halftime lead and finished off the Westerwinds 4-1 to improve to 3-0 in the Mid-Con. The final game of the road trip was in Toledo, Ohio versus Toledo (10/9). Toledo played a good defensive game but it wasnt enough as McGhee scored the game-winner with just over six minutes left in the game for Oaklands fifth win in a row. OU 10-2, 3-0 Mid-Con.
Three of the next four games were played in Rochester as Oakland welcomed Oral Roberts (10/12), Michigan State (10/18) and Michigan (10/21), with its lone away game in Valparaiso, Indiana (10/14). The Golden Grizzlies ought redemption from last years regular season loss to ORU and got it with a 3-0 victory. McGhee set the school record by scoring her 47th career goal in a Grizzly uniform. Oakland traveled to Valpo for a chance of solving the first piece of the puzzle, winning the regular season title. The game was played on a sloppy wet field and Oakland managed a late goal by Piccirillo (84:44) and Bucky made six saves for her fifth shutout of the season. The Golden Grizzlies won the conference title outright with a perfect 5-0 record. Michigan State came to the OU Soccer Field with ambitions to stop OUs seven-game winning streak. Oakland scored two goals with the wind at its back and held off the Spartans 2-1. Rapp scored the game-winner at the 26:18 minute mark and secured OSheas 100th victory as Oaklands head coach. The 24th ranked Wolverines were the final game for week of the 21st. Oakland and Michigan battled with each team having good chances to win in regulation. With a scoreless 90 minutes, the teams headed into overtime. OUs Erica Demers (Welland, Ontario/Centennial) hit the cross bar in the first OT but that was all Oakland could manage. Buckland saved the day in the second overtime as UM had a good chance to win with a shot in the box. The game remained tied at 0-0. Oakland 13-2-1.
The Golden Grizzlies entered Normal, Illinois (10/26) for a battle of conference champions. Illinois State won the Missouri Valley Conference and Oakland won the Mid-Continent Conference. ISU had a seven-game winning streak and OU was trying to break a school record by going 10 games without a loss. Illinois State got off to a fast start by scoring twice in the first 29 minutes. Oakland had an answer as Gail Wilson scored to get the Golden Grizzlies within one, 2-1. After the half, Oakland had some chances to score early but the game remained 2-1. Late in the game, ISU iced it with a goal at the 84:59 minute mark to end the grizzlies streak. Oakland 13-3-1.
The final regular season game came on October 28 for senior day versus Eastern Michigan on the OU Soccer Field. The Golden Grizzlies scored early as Rapp blasted one past the EMU goalkeeper at the 16:08 minute mark. The goal was enough for OU as Buckland made five saves for her seventh shutout of the season.
The Mid-Con Tournament was hosted by Oral Roberts in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the second straight year and Oakland was hoping for a repeat of 2000 when the Golden Grizzlies defeated Oral Roberts in the championship game 2-1 in overtime. Oakland took on IUPUI (11/9) in the first semi-final game. The Golden Grizzlies wasted little time scoring two goals each half and shutting out the Jaguars. Now the biggest game of OUs three short years of Division I, a game to win an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. And guess who, Oral Roberts in the championship game for the second consecutive year. This time OU didnt give the Golden Eagles a chance to breath as they scored in the 17th minute and five minutes into the second half. The tri-captains of Rapp, McGhee and Wilson scored each goal for Oakland and sent the Golden Grizzlies to their first ever NCAA tournament.
Oakland was sent to South Bend, Indiana to play at the University of Notre Dame. The teams that were sent there were #7 Notre Dame, Eastern Illinois and #20 Cincinnati. The Golden Grizzlies were matched up against the #20 Bearcats. It was the first meeting between the two squads and was the first time any Oakland team had tasted the NCAA postseason. OU wasnt intimidated as Rapp put the Grizzlies up 1-0 eight minutes into the contest. OU increased its lead to 2-0 as Demers scored on a penalty kick just three minutes after the Rapp goal. Cincy got back into the game with a goal at the 17 minute mark of the first half from a shot at the top of the box as OU led 2-1 after 45 minutes. The 20th ranked Bearcats tied the game up just 18 seconds into the second half on a chip over Bucklands head. The game remained tied until the 87th minute when Cincy scored on a header off a free kick from 45 feet out for the 3-2 victory. Oakland ended the season with a 16-4-1 record.
The Golden Grizzlies had nothing to be disappointed about. They accomplished the goals laid before them and did something that no other Oakland team has done, qualify for the NCAA tournament. They gave it there all and came away one goal short of a second round berth. They finished the season with the most wins an Oakland team has ever had, set a new record with 12 shutouts, tied a record of nine consecutive games without a loss and went 2-1-1 against the Big Ten. Yes, the Golden Grizzlies truly were Golden in the year 2001.
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