Four Years in WCU Sports

As a member of The Western Carolinian sports staff for four years, I’ve noticed some big changes and have seen some big things happen with the sports at the university, and good things are definitely on the horizon for a lot of the Catamount sports. In four years this school has developed a softball team that won the SoCon Regular Season title in its inaugural season, the Lady Catamount basketball team went to the NCAA Tournament, and two WNIT’s, the football team beat archrival Appalachian State, the soccer team went to their very first NCAA Tournament, the baseball team won the SoCon Regular Season title and advanced to the NCAA Regionals, Matt Cook won the 2008 SoCon Championship in Golf, the men’s Track and Field team has multiple indoor and outdoor SoCon Championships, while the women’s team holds an indoor title, things have definitely fared well for the Catamounts in four years.While Western has not had a magical postseason run like Davidson had in the NCAA Tournament this year, and although they did not beat Michigan like Appalachian State did in football, there have been some good teams put together in the four years that I have been here. Many athletes have accomplishments and accolades that they can take with them for the rest of their lives. New coaches have made their presence known on this campus and are currently getting their respective teams more familiar with their system. The first coaching change that I experienced as a member of The Western Carolinian was the reassignment of former basketball coach Steve Shurina. On April 14, 2005 Shurina was relieved of his duties as the coach of the men’s basketball team after compiling a record of 48-97 in five seasons with the Catamounts. 15 days later, it was announced that former N.C. State Wolfpack assistant Larry Hunter would take over as the new head coach. At the time of his hiring, Hunter was the 14th active winningest head coach in the country with a record of 509-224. Since his hiring, the Cats have gone 34-58 under Coach Hunter, and to me they just completed one of the most impressive seasons I’ve ever seen. Yeah, they finished 10-21 overall but the team played with eight and sometimes seven players and competed all the way until the final buzzer with teams like Appalachian, Chattanooga, and Georga Southern. They showed a lot of heart, which proved that Hunter sure can coach. On September 6, 2006, after could what could be the most successful inaugural campaign in NCAA history with a SoCon Regular Season Championship, softball head coach Megan Smith suddenly and shockingly resigned from her position after just one year on the job. 23 days later, in walks new coach Christine Hornak ready to take over for Smith. Things have not gone well for the softball program since Smith’s stunning departure. After winning the conference championship in the team’s first year, the team has gone 43-67 under Hornak. Their 2008 record is currently 15-33 with only five games remaining before the SoCon Tourney. 17 days after guiding the baseball program to the NCAA Regional Championships, former baseball skipper Todd Raleigh was hired to coach the Volunteers at the University of Tennessee. On July 16, 2007 Georgia Tech associate head coach Bobby Moranda was hired to guide the program to another SoCon Regular Season Championship. So far in his first season, the Catamounts are 19-20 overall and are 7-8 in the conference, and are currently in seventh ahead of Appalachian State, Wofford, and Davidson. More recently, after six seasons and a 22-43 record, football coach Kent Briggs was relieved of his duties as coach. On Dec. 31, former Wayne State head coach and Nebraska assistant Dennis Wagner was named the replacement for Briggs. Wagner is changing every little thing about the football program, but is most importantly installing discipline back into the team. After four years, Catamount athletics have had its ups and its downs. But, with some really talented athletes and some great coaches, both new and old, more good things are on the horizon for Western Carolina athletics for years to come. In four years with The Western Carolinian, I’ve met some great and some not-so-great people, established strong professional relationships, and seen some pretty talented teams play and compete. I’ve also seen some big changes occur with this publication, especially now with our new format and design. I’ve also gotten to do some pretty cool things like interview former WCU great and current NBA superstar Kevin Martin, which is something I will always take with me for the rest of my life. I also saw Nick Saban’s debut down in Alabama when they demolished WCU in football 52-6. So, Western Carolinian readers it’s been a long, fun, and exciting ride. Unfortunately for me, this is my last stop before it’s time for me to go out into the real world and move on with my career. Although I may be leaving and moving to the next chapter of my life, I will always bleed Catamount Purple and Gold.