What began as a development year for the 2002 Richmond Islanders unfolded into so much more.
The rep “B” fastpitch team took a cautious approach in its first year of three playing at the U19 division. By the end, the girls were colliding with their friendly and talented 2000 rival for the provincial championship.
“As a 2002 team and playing girls two years older, we went into this season focused on development and hoping to have success against some of the older teams,” said Islanders head coach Tyler Gibson. “One of our team goals was to qualify for provincials by doing well in the (Richmond/Vancouver) district playdowns.”
After an encouraging start to the season, injuries started to pile-up and wins were hard to come by. Richmond went 1-5 in its final regular season tournament.
“We knew we had two weeks to rest before the popular Canada Cup at Softball City, and the highly-coveted Provincial Championships in Nanaimo,” continued Gibson. “We just hoped to be competitive and not get blown out.”
What Gibson got was a magical two-week ride.
The Islanders powered their way through some incredible games to earn bronze among the 27 teams in their division from B.C., Alberta and Washington State at Canada Cup. The podium run produced a trail of upsets a long the way.
Three days later the girls were off to the Island for provincials.
The momentum from South Surrey continued as Richmond went 3-1 in round-robin play with wins over the Lakehill Blazers, Maple Ridge Rage, and the 2001 Cloverdale Fury. The lone blemish was a narrow defeat to the 2001 Abbotsford Outlaws.
Still, the Islanders were off to the eight-team playoff round where they knocked off the Cordova Bay Falcons and the previously undefeated 2001 South Delta Invaders.
That set the stage for the first of two meetings with the heavily favoured 2000 Islanders in the winner’s bracket.
A loss resulted in a rematch with the Invaders. Trailing 9-3 in the sixth, it look as though the Islanders may have to be content with a bronze medal. Instead, their bats came to life in a big way. Richmond scored three in the sixth and four more in the seventh to produce a dramatic 10-9 win.
The 2000s capped their perfect playoff run to secure the provincial title but the result did little to diminish what the U19 “rookies” had pulled off.
The team includes: Anjali Cote, Jen Lum, Regan Gibson, Jamie Corbett, Cassidy Martin, Zoe McNeill, Sarah Dempsey, Piper McKay, Cassidy Chen, Laini Glover, Sidney Lim, Mckenna Regier, Hannah Channon and Megan Mar.
Gibson is joined on the coaching staff by Steve Lum and Michel Cote.