OKLAHOMA CITY, OK --- The United States Olympic Committee announced today the USA Softball Women’s Olympic team as its 2004 ‘Team of the Year.’ A first time award for USA Softball, the women dominated the Olympic Games with their epic performance on the field going a perfect 9-0.
“This team was really remarkable for a lot of different reasons,” said head coach Mike Candrea. “There is no doubt they were hitting on all cylinders in Athens, and I can’t tell you how proud I am of each and every one of them.”
“Our team really had a great group of core players in 2004 and it is an honor to receive an award like this,” said three-time Olympic gold medalist Lisa Fernandez. “To be a part of this team was quite an honor and to be able to perform at this level is incredible.”
The U.S. Olympic Softball Team captured its third consecutive gold medal at the Athens Games, outscoring opponents 51-1 while achieving a 9-0 record. The squad, which broke 18 Olympic records in 2004, went 55 2/3 scoreless innings and combined for a team batting average of .343. The pitching staff earned a 0.12 ERA. The nine straight wins at the Games extended the USA’s streak to 79, dating back to July 13, 2003. The team also completed a 53-0 “Aiming for Athens” pre-Olympic tour to approximately 30 U.S. cities, outscoring opponents 476-14. In pre-Games play, the pitching staff’s ERA was 0.22 and the squad combined for a team batting average of .403.
Pictured on the August 30 cover of Sports Illustrated as the “The Real Dream Team,” USA Softball battled both on and off the field in Athens to overcome the tragic loss of head coach Mike Candrea’s wife, Sue, who passed away just 10 days before the squad headed for Greece. Following her sudden death from a brain aneurysm while traveling with the team in central Wisconsin, Team USA placed the letters “SC” on its helmets and wristbands as the players continued their journey to the Olympic Games podium in her honor.
Team members were Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.), Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, Calif.), Lisa Fernandez (Long Beach, Calif.), Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.), Amanda Freed (Cypress, Calif.), Lori Harrigan (Las Vegas, Nev.), Lovieanne Jung (Riverside, Calif.), Kelly Kretschman (Indian Harbour Beach, Fla.), Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.), Tairia Mims Flowers (Fullerton, Calif.), Stacey Nuveman (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), Leah O’Brien-Amico (Chino Hills, Calif.), Cat Osterman (Houston, Texas), Jenny Topping (Whittier, Calif.) and Natasha Watley (Santa Margarita, Calif.).
The team was honored along with Sportsman of the Year swimmer Michael Phelps and Sportswoman gymnast Carly Patterson.
USA Softball veteran Fernandez (Long Beach, CA) was also among the top four finalists in the Sportswoman voting.
The USOC SportsMan and SportsWoman of the Year awards have been presented annually since 1974 to the top overall male and female athlete from within the USOC member organizations. The team award was added in 1996. Winners are selected from the individual female and male Athlete of the Year and Team of the Year nominations of the National Governing Bodies for the Olympic, Pan American and Affiliated Organizations within the U.S. Olympic Movement.
Team of the Year
1996 – Women’s National/Olympic Basketball Team
1997 – Women’s National Soccer Team
1998 – Women’s Olympic Ice Hockey Team
1999 – Women’s National Soccer Team
2000 – USA Baseball Olympic Team
2001 – U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team
2002 – Women’s Bobsled Team
2003 – Women’s Gymnastics Team
2004 – USA Softball Olympic Team