Women's Soccer Wraps Up Another Outstanding Season

Nov. 15, 2002

If anyone had any questions about whether the Jacksonville University women's soccer program was one of the best in the Atlantic Sun and the Southeast Region, this season erased any doubts as the Dolphins fell just short of capturing their second Atlantic Sun Championship in the last three years, but solidified their place in JU's record books. The Dolphins nearly equaled their success from the magical 2000 season, in which they earned the school's first ever NCAA Tournament berth.

"In many ways, this team surpassed all preseason expectations [picked third in A-Sun preseason polls]," said head coach Mike Johnson. "We just didn't know how well our experienced players would blend with the youth, but throughout the season, the team rose to meet and exceed every challenge they faced. Of course the season was highlighted by the 15 game unbeaten streak and we were disappointed losing by only one goal in the finals of the A-Sun Championship, but we felt we still had a good shot at receiving an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament."

JU, appearing in the finals of the A-Sun Championship for the fourth time in the last five years, fell to UCF, 3-2, finishing the season with a 15-4-2 overall record, the second-best mark in school history. The 2002 season was filled many spectacular moments, none more exciting and exhilarating than the Dolphins 15-game unbeaten streak, the second longest streak in school history, that did not fizzle until the second-to-last game of the regular season on the road against No. 24 Florida State. At one point the Dolphins had won 10-straight games and looked poised to challenge the 16-game winning streak put up by the 2000 Dolphins. The Dolphins finished with an 8-0-1 record at home and defeated South Florida for the first time in seven tries, while finishing third in the conference with an 8-1-2 record, the second-best conference mark in school history.

The Dolphins had three players earn all-conference honors and one named to the all-freshman team, while placing all four on the all-tournament team. Midfielder Vanessa Illanes was one of four seniors on the team and she had a tremendous senior season leading the Dolphins in nearly every offensive category. The Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. native was nothing short of spectacular as she had one of the best seasons in JU history en route to being named Atlantic Sun Player of the Year. Her 12 goals and 13 assists for 37 points rank as the fifth-best single-season point total, while her 13 assists rank as the fourth-best single-season mark. Illanes finishes her career as the all-time leader in games played with 81, second with 23 assists and fourth with 75 games started. Joining Illanes on the All-Conference First-Team was sophomore defender Hanni Wenzel (Camano Island, Wash.). Wenzel, who returned from an injury after earning first-team all-conference honors in 2000, started every game and played every minute for the Dolphin defense, while recording one goal and anchoring a Dolphin defense that notched six shutouts. Wenzel's all-tournament honor was the second of her career, as she earned all-tournament honors in 2000 as well.

Junior forward Inge Heiremans (Tremelo, Belgium) was named to the All-Conference Second Team, while freshman forward Ranveig Aas-Hanssen (Skien, Norway) earned all-freshman honors. Heiremans led the team with 14 goals, tying her for the third-best single-season output ever, including five game-winners, while finishing second with eight assists and 36 points. Aas-Hanssen finished third on the team with 10 goals, seven assists and 27 points in her first collegiate season, highlighted by a five-game stretch in which she scored six goals and had two assists.

As impressive as the season was, it still finished on a disappointing note in the A-Sun Championship, but the Dolphins are becoming a major contender year-after-year in the Southeast Region.

"Our freshman contributions were very important to the team's success and that's what makes next year so promising. Having finished so close with so many players that are returning next year, it gives me extra motivation to go out and recruit and fill those needs that will elevate the team to win the championship next season."