At the onset of the school year, the Western Carolina athletic department developed a new slogan and mission: “One goal…to be the best.”
While this may be a common goal for athletic programs across the country, WCU has managed to quickly back this statement with top-tier programs in football, soccer and volleyball. All are experiencing their most success in recent years.
The football squad, coming off an underachieving 4-7 season, has already won two road games over major opponents for the first time in the Bill Bleil era, both picked to finish above them this year.
They only needed eight games to eclipse their win total of last season, notching five victories thus far.
Furthermore, they defeated Wofford for the first time since the Terriers joined the Southern Conference and won at ETSU for the first time in a decade.
With a win this week against Liberty, WCU could very well head into the Appalachian State contest on the strength of a four-game winning streak.
Down the road, a trip to the Division I-AA playoffs and a third place finish in the conference, their first in four years, is looking more possible with each passing week.
Meanwhile, on the soccer field, the Lady Catamounts have gained national recognition in only their third year of existence.
The young team lacking any seniors is now ranked 10th in the Southeast Region, the only school in the conference to break the top ten this season.
They earned this spot by beating traditional powerhouses Furman, UNCG and Davidson within the past two weeks, the latter two for the first time in program history.
On the strength of their recent success, the lady kickers have secured at least a share of the regular season title and the top seed at next week’s Southern Conference Tournament.
A victory there would also catapult WCU into the Division I playoffs, with the opportunity to make even more program history abound.
There is no letting up on the hard court either, where the volleyball squad has won six straight to capture sole possession second place alone in the SoCon standings only a game out of first place College of Charleston. This sets the stage for a late-season match at home, where the Lady Catamounts still hold an untarnished 12-0 mark.
Furthermore, both women’s programs advanced to their respective conference tourney semifinal rounds last year without recording such regular season achievements.
As both teams return all of last year’s battle-tested roster, tournament success is looming large for both squads.
With these achievements thus far early in the year, it appears the school has in fact rededicated itself to excellence on the field.
This pattern will be perpetual as well, considering recruitment will become much easier once high school prospects observe the athletic success of Western and their dedication to top-tier sports that may have been doubted in years past.
So much success early in the season also paints a positive picture for the rest of the year’s sports.
As the men’s basketball squad begins play with a fresh recruiting class and returns their starting roster from last season, a one-year turnaround may trickle over from the football field at E.J. Whitmire Stadium to the hard courts of Ramsey.
Women’s basketball also returns four starters from a fourth-place team a year ago and the baseball squad looks to avenge a strong season cut short by an early exit in the first round of last year’s conference tounrament.