In their inaugural season, the Catamount softball team became the 2005 Southern Conference regular season champions. The Catamounts will have to play their sophomore season without head coach Megan Smith. She resigned as the head coach of the Western Carolina Catamounts on September 6 to take a job at another university. In their very first season in school history, the Catamount softball team finished with an overall record of 41&20 with a 16&4 Southern Conference record. Due to her success in her first season, Smith was named the Southern Conference’s Coach of the Year. The Catamounts also led the Southern Conference in team homeruns with a total of 81. “This is a great opportunity for Coach Smith. She is a great coach and deserves that coaching job. She will be missed, but I want her to know that her family at Western is proud of her,” stated the defending SoCon Pitcher of the Year Mendy McKenzie. Last season, McKenzie led the Southern Conference in strikeouts with 207 and also led the conference in wins with 22. She was named to the 2005 All-SoCon Team. She believes that with the returning talent from last year’s team, this season’s team can do even better. However, with a whole new coaching staff, it might be a little tough. “Even though we lost Coach Smith, we know we have what it takes to win another Southern Conference Regular Season Championship. It might be tougher if we get a whole new coaching staff, but it all depends on how the team reacts to the new staff. I really want another championship very bad,” said McKenzie. Returning with McKenzie are four other members from last season’s All-SoCon Team. Fellow sophomore pitcher and last season’s SoCon Freshman of the Year Jenny Jackson returns to the Catamounts. Jackson remains the only Catamount in history to have thrown a no-hitter. Senior Ashley Adams, who set a SoCon record of 21 homeruns last season, returns with junior Savannah Filley and sophomore Allyson McCubbins. McKenzie believes that Western’s ideal candidate to replace Smith should be someone who is respectful but can push the team. “It’s going to be hard to replace a coach like Megan Smith and the rest of the staff. I think that the most important thing is to look for a leader on and off the field. We need a coach who can push us hard and wants to win just as bad as we do. If we can get someone like that, then Smith’s departure should not have a bad impact on us,” stated McKenzie. Western has received a lot of interest in the job and a new coach should be named soon. Replacing Smith will not be an easy task and will require a lot of work from Athletic Director Chip Smith. However, with the right new coach, returning talent, and some incoming freshman, maybe this year’s Catamount softball team could not only win the Southern Conference Regular Season Championship but the Southern Conference Tournament, as well. The Catamount softball team will return to action for their second season in mid-February of 2007.