Oct. 5, 2008
Cullowhee, N.C. - The countdown is on for the celebration of the Western Carolina Women's Soccer 10th Anniversary celebration slated for Homecoming weekend, Oct. 3-5, 2008. Be sure to check back every day through Sunday, Oct. 5 as CatamountSports.com will recap the top 10 moments from the first 10 seasons of Catamount women's soccer.
Friday, Sept. 26 - Moment No. 10: First-Ever Match / First SoCon Match
Saturday, Sept. 27 - Moment No. 9: First-Ever Goal / First Victory
Sunday, Sept. 28 - Moment No. 8: First-Ever Home Win / First SoCon Victory
Monday, Sept. 29 - Moment No. 7: 17-match Unbeaten Streak / 14-match Home Win Streak
Tuesday, Sept. 30 - Moment No. 6: Program Wins No. 50 & No. 100
Wednesday, Oct. 1 - Moment No. 5: Catamount Coaching Change
Thursday, Oct. 2 - Moment No. 4: 2005 - First Year Under the Lights
Friday, Oct. 3 - Moment No. 3: WCU Upsets No. 20 South Carolina
Saturday, Oct. 4 - Moment No. 2: 2001 - Regular Season Co-Championship; Tournament Runner-Up
Sunday, Oct. 5 - Moment No. 1: 2005 - Two In-season Championships; SoCon Champions
1. 2005 - Title Year: Two In-season Championships and a SoCon Championship
The 2005 season was a banner year for Western Carolina women's soccer. In addition to starting under a new head coach, as signified in Moment No. 5, the Catamounts claimed two in-season tournament titles before winning the school's first-ever Southern Conference tournament title.
WCU won the Niagara Women's Soccer Classic Championship on Aug. 25, 2005 with two victories, including a 3-2 double-overtime triumph over the host, Niagara. Emily Pierce headlined a list of four Catamounts to be named All-Tournament as the MVP, with Casey Davis, Stephanie Svoboda and Keevy Harris also making the honorary squad.
Two weeks later, the Catamounts claimed a share of the Furman Select Kickoff Classic title with two, 1-0, wins over Eastern Kentucky and Gardner-Webb. Pierce, Davis and Arlan Whittle were named to the all-tournament team.
Then, seeded fourth after setting a school record for wins in a regular season with 15, the Catamounts won three games in four days to claim the program's first-ever women's soccer tournament championship. WCU had to stave off elimination in the opening round as Heather Dittmer's high-arching, golden goal seven and a half minutes into the first overtime session lifted the Catamounts to a 2-1 win over the fifth-seeded College of Charleston Cougars. Western then upset top-seeded Davidson, 2-0 - avenging a home loss on Senior Day - to advance to the championship match against Furman.
Early in the second half of the match played on Nov. 6, 2005, Dittmer took a Natalie Turgeon pass and headed the ball past Furman's keeper to lift the Catamounts to a 1-0 victory over the Paladins en route to winning the 2005 Southern Conference Championship.
WCU faced then 17-time national champion, North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, falling 2-0 on Nov. 11, 2005. Western played UNC closer than 16 of their previous opponents, becoming just the sixth team that season to limit the high-powered Heel offense to two goals or less. The Catamounts conclude their record-setting championship season with a school-record 18 wins against six losses.
2. 2001 - Regular Season Co-Championship; Tournament Runner-Up
Western Carolina was picked to finish seventh in the Southern Conference prior to the 2001 season. But proving the prognosticators wrong, the Catamounts posted a 14-5 overall regular season mark, including an 8-2 record in league matches, to take a share of the conference title. WCU shared the honor with UNC Greensboro and Furman, but garnered the tournament's top seed - a first for the Catamount program.
The top-seeded Catamounts won their first two matches to advance to the conference tourney finals, but fell in double overtime to third-seeded UNC Greensboro, 2-1, as the game-winning goal was volleyed in during the 110th minute. The 16 victories were a school-record until the 2005 team broke that mark with 18 wins.
Forward Jordan Howell was WCU's lone first-team selection, but the Catamounts placed four on the second team led by goalkeeper Mandi Tinsley. She was joined by midfielder Nardia Moore, defender Jamie Pawlik and forward Lauren Bramlett.
3. Sept. 21, 2008 - Western Carolina Upsets No. 20 South Carolina
Memorable moment No. 3 occurred in Cullowhee less than two weeks ago as Western Carolina earned its first-ever victory over a nationally-ranked team, upsetting No. 20 South Carolina, 1-0. The Catamounts scored off a corner kick from senior Arlan Whittle, which deflected off Gamecocks goal keeper Mollie Patton's shoulder, to give Western Carolina the 1-0 advantage. Sophomore goalie Caitlin Williams recorded four saves in earning the shutout victory.
The win was also WCU's first-ever over a high-profile regional conference, such as the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) or Southeastern Conference (SEC).
4. 2005 - First Year Under the Lights
After six seasons playing at unlit Schrader Field, the 2005 season brought forth the first-ever "Season Under the Lights" in Cullowhee as Western Carolina opened the Catamount Athletic Complex (CAC). Facilities for both track & field, tennis and soccer, the CAC unofficially opened the previous spring as WCU hosted the Southern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Yet, on Sept. 2, 2005, Western christened the new facility, under the lights for the first-time at home, with a 3-0 shutout win over Campbell.
A WCU women's soccer record 574 witnessed the opening night under the lights. But that was just the start of a record-setting season, headlined by the a 7-2 home record - including five shutout wins - and the program's first-ever conference tournament championship.
One of the most dramatic wins in school history came at home on Oct. 19, 2005 as WCU scored in the final second of overtime to upend archrival, Appalachian State, 1-0. Lauren Atkinson blasted a shot from the left of the cage beating both the buzzer and Mountaineer goal keeper as the final seconds ticked off the game clock in OT.
5. Catamount Coaching Change
After directing the Catamount women's soccer program from its inception through its first six seasons, first-ever head coach Debbie Hensley accepted a position at Louisiana State in late January 2004, leaving WCU to make its first coaching change for the program. Current head coach Tammy DeCesare was hired on February 18, 2005.
Hensley, who later also served as Western's Senior Woman Administrator, posted four winning seasons after helping found the Catamount program in 1998-99. She finished with a 59-52-11 (.554) overall record and was 28-26-6 in the Southern Conference. Hensley guided WCU to a share of the 2001 SoCon regular season championship, earning SoCon Coach of the Year plaudits.
In her first season, DeCesare piloted Western Carolina to the 2005 Southern Conference tournament championship and the program's first-ever bid to the NCAA College Cup Championship tournament. She earned a share of the Soccer Buzz magazine Southeast Region Coach of the Year runner-up. Entering this season, her squads have posted a 37-22-6 (.615) combined record with a 16-11-5 league mark.
6. Milestone Victories: Catamounts Win 50th, 100th Matches All-Time
Western Carolina's women's soccer program secured double-digit wins in each of its first four seasons. On Sept. 22 of the 2003 season - its fifth in existence - the Catamounts reached its next milestone: program victory #50.
Down 1-0 early, Western Carolina put up two answered goals to pick up the 2-1 win against Liberty in Lynchburg, Va. After surrendering an early goal just 21:29 into the match, the Catamounts recoiled and pounced back as Brittany Bennefield blasted a 30-yard shot from her defender position past the LU Liberty goalkeeper to tie the match at one.
In the second half, the Catamounts wasted little time pulling ahead when six minutes in, amidst the 51st minute, Stephanie Svoboda took a cross from Megan Chambers and found the back of the net to post the game-winning goal, lifting WCU to victory No. 50.
Just last weekend, the women's soccer program surpassed yet another milestone, eclipsing the century mark with program victory 100 - a 6-0 blanking of Southern Conference foe, The Citadel, in Charleston. Five Catamounts scored a season-high six goals, including two from junior Shanna Schmoker, as the Catamounts shutout the Bulldogs for the milestone.
7. School-Record 14-match Home Winning Streak & 17-match Unbeaten Streak
From October 3, 2000 through October 13, 2002, Western Carolina did not lose a home match at the original home of Catamount Soccer, Charles Schrader Field. The Catamounts put together a 17-match unbeaten streak that included a school-record, 14-straight victories in Cullowhee. All told, the Catamounts went 16-0-1 during the two-year span.
The 14-match unbeaten stretch included overtime wins over Georgia Southern in 2000 and two, double-overtime victories over Coastal Carolina and Southern Conference foe, UNC Greensboro. Also, eight of the 14 wins were shutout victories.
8. September 16, 1999 & September 25, 1999 - First-Ever Home Win & First SoCon Victory
Memorable moment number eight contains two parts that came within a 10 day span. In mid-September, coming off the program's first two road victories over Troy State and Clayton State and a second home loss in Southern Conference play - in double-overtime to Georgia Southern - Western Carolina women's soccer earned its first home victory. The Catamounts tallied their third win - all in shutout fashion - upending Limestone, 3-0, to earn the first Cullowhee "W."
Ten days later, the Catamounts were able to breakthrough against a conference foe, securing the program's first-ever SoCon win with a 2-1 decision over Chattanooga at Schrader Field.
9. September 4, 1999 - First-Ever Goal / First-Ever Victory
After opening up the first two matches with losses - both by 3-0 counts - Western Carolina lit the scoreboard with a historic marker in its third outing, securing the program's first-ever win in the process. WCU Women's Soccer 10th Anniversary team member - and the Catamounts' only three-time All-Southern Conference selection - Nardia Moore scored the first goal in program history as Western Carolina blanked Troy State, 2-0, on the road for the school's first win.
10. August 27, 1999 - First-Ever Match / First-Ever Southern Conference Match
After a 15-year absence from competition in soccer (WCU men's soccer was discontinued in 1983-84), Western Carolina returned to the soccer pitch in 1999 as it opened its inaugural season of Catamount women's soccer - it's first-ever in women's competition.
Western's first-ever match was also it's first-ever in Southern Conference play as the Catamounts hosted the Furman Lady Paladins at the old Schrader Field, which currently sits adjacent the new Catamount Athletic Complex.
Although WCU dropped its opening tilt with the perennial power Paladins, 3-0, the Catamounts would win 10 matches in their opening season and started a winning tradition in Cullowhee.