40 in 40 - 2003 Women's Soccer Season
Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Title IX, wmubroncos.com takes a look at 40 key moments/females in the history of women's athletics at Western Michigan University. Though the selection process, an effort was made to highlight a moment and player/coach from each of our current women's sports programs, as well pay respect to our women's legacy sports. A different feature will be released each of the 40 days, July 24 through Sept. 1.
2003 Women's Soccer Season
In 2002 the Broncos had finished tied for seventh in the Mid-American Conference with a 5-5-1 conference record and a 7-10-1 record overall. An influx of talented freshmen made for a very quick turnaround.
"I saw who was coming in with me," said then incoming freshman Chantal Robinson. "I played with and against a lot of the incoming class in club soccer and thought we could have a pretty kick-butt year."
The Broncos started off the magical year 2-3-1 in six non-conference games. Western Michigan had its ups and downs during the start of MAC play, going 2-4-0 in its first six. Things changed after that.
"We had some struggles," added Robinson. "But once we started focusing on ourselves and the type of soccer we wanted to play, that's when the streak started."
A streak that has not been matched to this day by any WMU women's soccer team. The Broncos rattled off 10 straight wins, giving up just five goals and blanking opponents six times. To start off the streak the Brown & Gold did not surrender a goal for four straight games.
Because of the rocky start the Broncos finished third in the MAC, entering the MAC Tournament as the three-seed.
To open the tournament the Broncos handled Buffalo 3-0. The big shocks came from Bowling Green upsetting top-seeded Eastern Michigan and Ohio besting the second-seeded Kent State Golden Flashes. This gave the Broncos home field advantage for the rest of the tournament.
WMU dispatched Ohio 2-1 in the semifinals to head to the MAC Tournament Finals for the first time as a program. The Broncos fell behind Bowling Green early but countered with four unanswered goals to win the program's first MAC Championship. Robinson scored two goals in the second half to secure the lead after Jessica Pattison tied the game and Nicole Primmer gave WMU the lead.
A 4-1 win in the MAC Championship game propelled the Broncos into their first ever NCAA Tournament, where they had the daunting task of facing No. 9 Illinois.
"We didn't know what to expect," said Robinson about heading into the NCAA Tournament against No. 9 Illinois. "We knew they had a really good goalie and a great midfielder that was injured so we tried to use that. But mostly we just focused on playing the way we wanted to play."
And the Broncos did. Robinson said they beat the Illini by outworking them and fighting for every for every loose ball. Robinson got WMU on the scoreboard in the 21st minute on a free kick from 30 yards out. The goal was the first Illinois had given up in six games. Pattison added another goal for a 2-0 final, pushing WMU's win streak to 10.
Unfortunately the dream season came to an end when the Broncos fell Purdue 3-2 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Broncos took a 2-1 lead on goals by Chelsea McNally and Megan Urbats but Purdue tallied twice in a four-minute span to end WMU's season.
"To this day I can't even be mad about the loss," said Robinson. "We had such a great season and we played very well that night."
Robinson, who now works and lives in the Kalamazoo area, helped the Broncos to three straight 10-plus win seasons, a feat that had not been matched until the past few years. She has witnessed the immense growth in women's athletics but also recognizes it wasn't always that way.
"It is something I have talked about with my mom," explained Robinson. "The participation at all levels is at an all-time high for girls and women and it is great to see. Back when my mom was in college it was basically just volleyball and track."