Oakland Women’s Soccer Caps Off Ten-Year History With Winning Season

2003 marked the tenth year in Oakland University's women's soccer history and also marked the year in which records were broken and champions were born.  The team broke two school records, won its fourth consecutive Mid-Con Championship Title, took the conference regular season crown, made its third consecutive appearance at the NCAA Women's College Cup, and ended the season with one of the best winning records throughout the program's history at 15-5-1. 

Oakland captured their fourth consecutive Mid-Con Championship Title in 2003.

Furthermore, the Golden Grizzlies took the Mid-Con by storm going undefeated in conference play and sweeping all Mid-Con honors.  Senior Therese Bjorke (Lovenstad, Norway) was tabbed Defensive Player of the Year, Shelly Piccirillo (Niagara Falls, Ont.) was named Offensive Player of the Year, while freshman Lisa-Marie Woods (Oslo, Norway) took Newcomer of the Year honors.  In addition, head coach Nick O'Shea would take Coach of the Year honors while ten Golden Grizzlies were named to the Mid-Con's first and second teams.  Joining Bjorke, Piccirillo and Woods on the All Mid-Con first team were goalie Sarah Buckland (Burlington, Ont.), midfielder Erica Demers (Welland, Ont.), and forward Marianne Samdal (Tiller, Norway).  Second-team All Mid-Con honorees included defenders Katie Arnott (St. John's, Newfoundland) and Cat Panabaker (Hamilton, Ont.), midfielder Kelly Rieck (Shelby Twp., Mich.) and forward Kristi Swaving (Albuquerque, New Mexico). 

Head coach Nick O'Shea, who also entered 2003 in his tenth year, began the season with a win over Big Ten opponent Illinois.  The Golden Grizzlies traveled to Champaign for the Illini Cup and went undefeated throughout the weekend beating the Fighting Illini 1-0 and tying Southeast Missouri State 0-0.  As a result of her performances in shutting out two teams over the weekend, senior goalkeeper Buckland was named Mid-Con's Defensive Player of the Week. 

Oakland continued their hot streak the following weekend at the Nike/Michigan Challenge in Ann Arbor.  The team made history by defeating Big Ten and intrastate rival Michigan for the first time in the program's history by a score of 1-0.  As a result, Buckland took her second Mid-Con honor taking Defensive Player of the Week for the second straight week.  The Golden Grizzlies' winning streak ended the following game however, where Oakland went 0-3 against Marquette, Loyola-Marymount and #4 UCLA.  Scoring Oakland's lone goal against Michigan and two goals against #4 UCLA was junior Piccirillo, who was tabbed Mid-Con Offensive Player of the Week for her efforts.

Throughout the next ten games Oakland broke two school records going undefeated from September 19th-October 30th.  The Golden Grizzlies defeated Eastern Michigan 3-0 before opening up conference action against Centenary in Shreveport, La.  Oakland was voted as the favorite to take the Mid-Con title in the pre-season coaches poll and the Golden Grizzlies would live up to the expectation.

Oakland first ousted the Gents 1-0 on the road before hosting conference opponent Southern Utah and then traveling to Macomb to take on Western Illinois.  The Golden Grizzlies took the teams down one-by-one defeating the Thunderbirds 4-0 and hammering the Leathernecks 7-2. 

Senior Therese Bjorke was named Mid-Con's Defensive Player of the Year in 2003.

On October 5th the Golden Grizzlies returned home to take on Cincinnati in their third meeting in both programs history.  Oakland looked to seek revenge on the Bearcats who had beaten the Grizzlies twice over the past two years - one of those defeats coming in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2001.  Oakland didn't hold back however and easily-handled the visitors by a whopping 5-1 margin.  Freshman forward Samdal scored two goals on three shots against Western Illinois and then went on to score two more and rack-up an assist against Cincinnati. As a result, Samdal was named Mid-Con's Offensive Player of the Week for the week ending October 6th.

Oakland would continue its hot streak over the next five games defeating opponents Valparaiso, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Oral Roberts, Detroit, and IUPUI.  With the victory over IUPUI, the Golden Grizzlies captured their fourth Mid-Con regular season title in five years, and third outright.  Along the road to victory, Bjorke, Demers and Woods were tabbed Mid-Con Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week for their efforts.

Just before the team traveled to Tulsa, Okla. for the Mid-Con Tournament, the Golden Grizzlies' ten game winning streak was snapped by intrastate rival Western Michigan by a 3-2 defeat.  Oakland was quick to rebound from this loss as the team faced their third Big Ten opponent in the 2003 season and remained victorious against Big Ten teams for the year handing Indiana a 3-0 loss. 

Norwegian native Lisa-Marie Woods was tabbed Mid-Con's Newcomer of the Year in 2003.

Oakland entered the Mid-Con tournament as the number one seed and faced Western Illinois in the match-up.  In an enduring battle that lasted for 94:30, the Golden Grizzlies finally got the golden goal from Samdal that gave them the victory, 1-0, and the right to enter the championship title game. 

The championship game of the Mid-Con Tournament has been replayed for the past four consecutive years - and each year Oakland has defeated Oral Roberts on the Golden Eagles' home turf.  The Golden Grizzlies exploded to a 3-0 lead before Oral Roberts would net one to finish the game at 3-1 and give Oakland the right to represent the Mid-Con at the NCAA College Cup for the third consecutive year. 

During the tournament Demers, a first team All-Mid-Con honoree and last year's pick as Mid-Con's Player of the Year, was named tournament MVP while three other players were named to the All-Tournament team.  Defender Laura Cowham (Caledonia, Mich.) was joined by Samdal and Swaving on the team who helped Oakland capture the Mid-Con Championship title.

For the second time of the 2003 season and second year in a row, Oakland would face Michigan in the first round of the NCAA College Cup.  The Wolverines and Golden Grizzlies met in South Bend, Ind. as Notre Dame hosted the first round.  It was a tight match-up that saw the Golden Grizzlies fall and end their season on Nov. 14th as the Wolverines scored in the 65th minute to hand Oakland their fifth loss of the season. 

The Golden Grizzlies ended the season with a 15-5-1 record - a vast improvement over the 2002 season.  As a result, Oakland ranked sixth on the NCAA's list of Most Improved Division I Women's Soccer teams for 2003.  Furthermore, Woods was named to the NSCAA/adidas Great Lakes All-Region team while Bjorke was named to the Academic All-America District IV team. 

Oakland took a large step in 2003 setting numerous records and creating history for the soccer program.  The culmination of a ten year history will be highlighted by 2003 in the record books - bringing to light the team's successes and victories. 

Oakland University 2003. All rights reserved.

Golden Grizzlies Photo Galleries