Carrie Serwetnyk earned plenty of applause during a remarkable soccer career - and had bouquets of praises tossed at her feet even after she hung up her boots.
The dawning of the new millennium proved to be a particularly memorable time for her. On May 5 in 2000, Carrie became the first female soccer player to earn a place in the Mississauga Sports Hall of Fame, a tribute to the best women soccer player the city has ever seen in the 20th century.
But being "first" to accomplish outstanding feats in her chosen sport is nothing new to Serwetnyk and it was natural for the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame to open the door of its traditionally male-dominated bastion to a woman and choose her for recognition.
Serwetnyk is widely considered the pioneer of women's soccer in Canada. She played a major role in the game long before it became the nation's fastest growing sport, but more than that, she had also influenced the game beyond Canada's borders on the international playing field.
Carrie was born in Hamilton (July 17, 1965) of Ukrainian and Scottish parents, but was raised in Mississauga after the family moved to Clarkson.
She kicked off her playing career with the Clarkson Minor Soccer Organization playing in the Peel-Halton Rep League, where she led the Clarkson-Sheridan team to the Ontario Championship. Chances are that Carrie and her Clarkson-Sheridan teammates would have done well in a national cup competition, but there was no Canadian Championship for the infant women soccer those days.
Eventually her skills attracted the attention of American Collegiate scouts and she was offered a scholarship at the University of North Carolina where , at 20, she was the leading scorer (19 goals) and recipient of the NCAA circuit's Most Valuable Player Award in her Freshman season. Carrie had played in three NCAA finals with the Tar Heels, winning titles in 1986 and '87 and finishing runner-up in the '85 final.
In 1986 and '87 she also played for Ontario during the summer holidays, taking part in the Canadian National Women's Championships where she scored three goals in the '87 final.
Carrie was selected to represent Canada 19 times with the full national team at a time when international women's soccer competitions were considered somewhat of a novelty and not as frequent as they are these days. With Canada, she played in the Taiwan Cup in Taipei in '97 and in the FIFA tournament in China, a forerunner of the Women's World Cup.
In 1991, Carrie helped Canada qualify for the Women's World Cup out of North and Central American CONCOCAF region.
Her career took Carrie to France where, from 1988 to '90 she had played in a professional league, leading her team (Jeunesse Sportive Femminine de Poissy) to the national finals.
She also became the first Canadian (man or woman) to play professionally in the 12-team Japanese Women's League, first with Fujita Corporation - where they valued her talent highly enough to sign her to a hefty $100,000 US contract - then with Yominouri Soccer Club. She was top scorer with both teams and league MVP.
A knee injury put a premature end to her career.
"It's wonderful to be recognized like this because female athletes don't get the same exposure as men do," commented Serwetnyk when she joined the illustrious list of Mississauga Sports Hall of Fame inductees. "I had a lot of good times playing for 20 years and it's nice to know that my past has meant something."
After dotting her playing career, Carrie decided to turn a much greater degree of her attention and talent to another great love interest of her life, arts, and started attracting attention for her paintings. In May of 2002 the International Art Institute in Provincetown, Massachusetts proudly announced an exhibition of oils, watercolours and charcoal works by the artist Carrie Serwetnyk.