A season that nearly wasn’t has proven to be a dream campaign for the Richmond 2000 Islanders.
The rep “B” girls’ team will look to make one final splash at this weekend’s U19 Western Canadian Championships in Stettler, Alberta. They will enter the event having won six of seven tournaments, including the Provincial U19B Championships and the Canada Cup in the past three weeks. The only time the Islanders weren’t on top of the podium still resulted in a silver medal finish — part of a dazzling 63-7 overall record.
A year ago, head coach Troy Cooke honestly believed the run through youth softball was over for his team. His girls were graduating from high school and heading in so many different directions. It’s a common theme for many teams even though U19 is a three-year division.
However, the 2018 campaign didn’t unfold as planned when the Islanders were upset in the Vancouver/Richmond district playoffs and failed to even make the provincials.
“The girls were pissed off. That’s not the way they wanted it to end,” recalled Cooke.
By the fall, one final season had become a reality. Three girls did not return but the Islanders were fortunate to add four players from North Vancouver and Delta where teams were not continuing.
The Islanders opened the season by capturing the Cat Wheatley Memorial Tournament — played in the memory of their former assistant coach — and the winning just never stopped.
“If you told me last October we were going to win 63 of 70 games I never would have believed it,” added Cooke. “This is a group of veteran players who have simply been on a mission. There is no real weakness in our line-up. The girls can hit from top to bottom. It’s been a lot of fun.”
At the provincials in Nanaimo, the Islanders dropped one game in preliminary play then cruised to the title with a perfect run in the championship bracket. It was capped by a an all-Richmond gold medal game against the 2002 Islanders — a promising team Cooke has high praise for.
At Softball City a week earlier, the Islanders captured the 22-team Futures Selects U19 title with a 4-3 win over Havoc Fastpitch from Washington State. Richmond had earlier gone 4-0 in round-robin play, outscoring its opponents 37-1.
The roster includes: Ayden Foort, Cate Sykes, Ellen Yam, Harper Gibson , Jessica Porter, Josie Cooke, Katie Yee, Mackenzie Last, Natalie Caras, Racquel Bennett, Sarah Peardon, Shanelle Gutenberg and Sheetal Reddy.
Joining Cooke on the coaching staff are assistants Scott Porter, Ed Yee and Darren Bennett.