The University of Alberta Pandas Rugby program will honour the 20th anniversary of their 1999 CIS Championship this weekend, in a ceremony prior to the Pandas season-opener against the Lethbridge Pronghorns.
Several players, coaches, and family representatives from the '99 team will be in attendance on Sunday, and will participate in the celebration just before the Pandas 1:00 p.m. kickoff.
The Pandas are coming off a 2-4-0 CW record a year ago, placing fourth in Canada West. The program also underwent some dramatic changes this off-season, with Canada West All-Stars Ali Wicklum, Jayne Isherwood, and Alix Evans all graduating from the program.
Head coach Matt Parrish did bring in one of the best recruiting classes in program history this off-season, highlighted by rookies Melina Ioannides, Cassie Jorgenson, Janelle Amyotte and Kate Manning, all of whom are products of the Green and Gold Athlete Academy.
That strong first-year class will join a talented returning group, including all-star Courtney Holtkamp, and returning starters Savannah Dubien, Athea Volpe, Cara Park, and Emily Brown.
The Pandas also earned a pair of wins in non-conference play this summer, beating the ERU Selects and Lethbridge Pronghorns last week.
1999 CIS Champions
The 1999-2000 season was a season of firsts for the Pandas rugby program. That season was the first time women laced up their rugby boots as Pandas. It was the first season as head coach along the sidelines for eventual Sports Wall of Fame member, Helen Wright. It was the season the program captured the first of what is now a record 10 Canada West titles. And it was the season that kick-started a dynasty as the 1999-2000 Pandas went on to capture the program’s first Monilex Trophy as national champions.
In their debut season, the Pandas went a combined 7-0 in tournament, Canada West championship and CIAU championship play. They outscored their Canada West opposition 34-0 in two Canada West championship round robin games, then claimed the conference banner with a 39-0 win over UBC. The team was awarded six Canada West all-star positions, and the Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year and Coach of the Year Awards.
At the national championship, the Pandas ripped off four consecutive wins to claim the gold medal, and outscored their opponents 162-10 in four games, for an average margin of victory of 40-2. A pair of Pandas were named CIAU All-Canadians, six earned academic All-Canadian status, and the team claimed the national Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year awards.
The 1999-2000 U of A Pandas rugby team was also the first team in what would become the Pandas rugby 5-in-a-row dynasty. From 1999 to 2003, the Pandas program won both the Canada West and national championship trophies, cementing the program’s status as a powerhouse in the history of university sport.