June 16, 2006
Cullowhee, N.C. - A review of Western Carolina's 2005-06 athletic year shows the Catamounts had a very successful season. In addition to winning Southern Conference championships in soccer, men's indoor track & field, men's outdoor track & field and softball, Western played for a share of the SoCon title in football, falling to eventual national champion Appalachian State in the final regular-season game, and the Catamount baseball team is the only school in the nation to have non-conference road wins over two 2006 College World Series teams (Clemson and Georgia). WCU student-athletes earned a league-best 118 All-SoCon honors on the field, not including numerous SoCon academic honors and four SoCon Coach of the Year selections.
Off the field, in addition to accumulating 1,537 hours of community service, Catamount student-athletes have posted a cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.01 for their careers. (Note: Not included in the community service hours were 549 hours turned in by WCU's student athletic trainers.) Bolstering that GPA were a combined 21, 4.0 GPA's in the Fall of 2005 and Spring of 2006 semesters and a combined total of 130 Dean's List honors between the two semesters. Among the conference, there were five ocassions when a Catamount was tabbed TIAA-CREF SoCon Student-Athlete of the Week with a total of 63 honors on the TIAA-CREF SoCon All-Academic Team. To be SoCon TIAA-CREF honoree, a student-athlete must be in its second year at the institution and have a GPA of 3.2 or above.
As mentioned before, Western Carolina student-athletes led the league with 118 All-SoCon honors. Two Catamounts played a key role in Western's league-leading total as Adam Puett and Raquel Ramseur each earned a total of seven All-SoCon honors during the 2005-06 season. Puett was an All-SoCon performer in cross country, while earning three All-SoCon honors in indoor track (mile run, 3,000-meters and distance medley relay team) and three in outdoor track (800-meters, 1,500-meters and 5,000-meters). Ramseur was a three-time All-SoCon honoree in indoor track (200-meters, 400-meters and 4x400-meter relay) and a four-time honoree in outdoor track (200-meters, 400-meters, 4x100-meter relay and 4x400-meter relay). WCU also had 31 SoCon Player of the Week honors, including a SoCon softball record five selections for Mendy McKenzie, and 16 SoCon Player of the Month honors.
Western had seven student-athletes earn postseason SoCon honors individually, including Lauren Powell (SoCon Women's Basketball Player of the Year), Matt Cook (SoCon Men's Golf Player of the Year), Zeb Johnson (SoCon Men's Indoor Track Performer of the Year), Adam Puett (SoCon Men's Outdoor Track Performer of the Year), Mendy McKenzie (SoCon Softball Pitcher of the Year), Jenny Jackson (SoCon Softball Freshman of the Year) and Trish Hanson (SoCon Women's Tennis Sportsmanship Award). In addition to student-athletes being honored, Catamount coaches were recognized by their peers in earning a total of four SoCon Coach of the Year honors, including Megan Smith (softball), Steve Lott (women's golf) and Danny Williamson (men's indoor track & field and men's outdoor track & field).
The individual honors were not limited to the SoCon. Baseball's Trey McDaniel, Blake Murphy and Jonathan Greene each earned National Player of the Week honors, while Steven Strausbaugh was named to the All-Atlantic Region team. Softball's Mendy McKenzie and Ashley Adams were tabbed All-Southeastern Region, with Adams, Allyson McCubbins, and Heather Pritchard named All-State by NCCSIA. Danny Williamson was also named NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Men's Indoor Track & Field Coach of the Year as well as the District Outdoor Track & Field Coach of the Year. First-year women's soccer skipper, Tammy DeCesare, shared the regional runner-up coach of the year honor as awarded by Soccer Buzz magazine. Academically, Catamount senior soccer player Emily Pierce, who was an All-SoCon performer on the field, racked up several honors, including Academic All-District III, Region 3 Finalist for the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and the SoCon's David Knight Graduate Scholarship.
Also, Matt Cook represented Western with an at-large berth to the NCAA Men's Golf Regional, marking the first time that feat has been accomplished, and Asia Davis represented Western at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, finishing 25th nationally in the 400-meter hurdles. It marked just the eighth time a Catamount had participated in the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Below is a brief highlight or two of each sport during the 2005-06 season:
Football: In addition to playing for a share of the SoCon title, Western upset second-ranked Furman, defeated nationally-ranked Chattanooga and Wofford, while nearly garnering its first win over an NCAA I-A opponent, falling 7-3 at Cincinnati. The Cats led the nation in pass defense and kick returns, while pacing the SoCon in total defense. WCU had a total of 10 All-SoCon honors with Mike Malone, who was first team All-SoCon in football and a five-time All-SoCon honoree in track, finishing second nationally in kick returns.
Soccer: Western, under first-year coach Tammy DeCesare and playing its first season in its new complex, won the SoCon Tournament Championship and made its first ever appearance in the NCAA Championship. Along the way, Western, who won its second league title in its seven-year existence, Western enjoyed an 8.5 game turnaround in the win-loss column from 2004 to 2005, the best-ever in the Southern Conference, turning a 5-10-3 season into an 18-6-0 mark. In addition to the mark ranking as the biggest turnaround in conference history, it also ranked first in the nation last year.
Men's and Women's Cross Country: Led by junior transfer, Dan Fassinger, and senior Adam Puett, the men's cross country team opened the season strong by taking first-place at the South Carolina Invitational as they ran one-two, respectively. Puett was the lone runner on the men's squad to earn All-SoCon honors, finishing fifth at the conference championship and he also recorded a Top 50 showing in the NCAA East Regional. Also at the regional event, senior Deanna Kulesz and sophomore Kerrie Savery posted two of the top seven 6-K times in school history.
Volleyball: Under first-year head coach Stephanie Dragan, Western had three different Catamounts earned all-tournament honors; Meredith Harmon at the Clemson Big Orange Bash; Ellie Talbot at Samford Invitational; and Heather Koontz at UNCA Bulldog Classic. The '05 Catamounts ended a four-year drought in the SoCon Championship, winning its first-round game over UNC Greensboro before battling second-seeded Appalachian State to the wire, falling in five.
Men's Basketball: Under first-year coach Larry Hunter, Western set a school record by draining 221 3-pointers on the season, thanks to six games by making 12 or more including a school-record 15 in a win over Chattanooga in the RAC. The Cats had the opportunity to finish second in their division. However, a setback at Chattanooga in the regular-season finale put WCU third in the SoCon North, which was still its highest finish in league play since moving to the North Division for the 1998 season (nine years).
Women's Basketball: After a slow start against arguably the toughest schedule in the conference, the defending SoCon Champion Lady Catamount rallied to finish fifth in the league and nearly upset eventual champion, Chattanooga, in the SoCon tournament with sophomore Monique Dawson earning all-tournament honors. In addition to Lauren Powell's SoCon Freshman of the Year honor, she earned second team All-SoCon honors after becoming the first rookie to lead the Lady Cats in scoring in over 16 years. She connected on 64, 3-pointers which already ranks eighth on the WCU career charts.
Men's Indoor Track & Field: Western Carolina won the SoCon Indoor Track & Field title, marking the program's third league title and second in the last three years. Western outscored its nearest competitor, Appalachian State, by 64 points, 277-to-213. After watching rival App earn seven of the 10 individual SoCon championships to lead after the first day, the Catamounts turned the tables on the final day of competition, winning five of the 10 individual championships. During the two-day event, Western had a total of 25 podium (top three) finishes including seven total individual championships.
Women's Indoor Track & Field: The women's team nearly duplicated the men, placing second at the SoCon Championship. Individually, Western won four SoCon Indoor titles and tallied 12 All-SoCon honors.
Men's Golf: For just the second time, Western Carolina had the SoCon Individual Champion with Matt Cook winning by three strokes. The team finished in the top 10 in all 10 events entered, while setting school records for best score over 18 holes and for 54 holes. Individually, Western had 10 top 10 finishes, including three wins by Cook.
Women's Golf: Western had two All-SoCon honorees in Ashley Hovda and Malin Fryk, with Fryk, Bianca Melone and Kady Karland earning All-SoCon Tournament honors. WCU had its most successful year on record posting top five finishes in 10 of the 11 events this season, including three-consecutive, first-place finishes to open the year, and a stroke average of 303.77, a dozen strokes better than the previous season and three lower than the 2002-03 SoCon Championship season.
Tennis: Western played its first season in its new complex, handing region rival UNC Asheville a 5-2 loss in the first ever match played in the facility. Trish Hanson led the team with six wins at the number one singles spot and she was additionally recognized by winning the league's prestigious Sportsmanship Award.
Men's Outdoor Track & Field: The Catamounts completed the season sweep, winning the program's second ever outdoor league title. Similar to the indoor title, Western used an impressive second day, scoring a total of 206.5 points on the final day of competition, to post the come-from-behind victory by 14 points over App State. The title was secured when Adam Puett was asked to run three distance events (1,500-meters, 80-meters and 5,000-meters) in near succession, placing among the top three in each. Western sent five individuals and two relay teams to the NCAA Regional Championships.
Women's Outdoor Track & Field: After a disappointing first day, Western rallied on day two to jump three spots and finish third at the SoCon Outdoors. Western sent three individuals and one relay team to the NCAA Regional Championships. Although she placed seventh in the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA Regional, Asia Davis' school-record time of 58.05 at the regional was good enough for an at-large berth to the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Baseball: Western, who was 9-11 versus 2006 NCAA Regional teams, was able to knock off a pair of baseball giants in current number one team in the nation Clemson and fellow College World Series participant Georgia. With WCU's win at Clemson, WCU head coach Todd Raleigh picked up his 200th career victory and it marked the Catamounts' second win all-time in Clemson (and first since 1974), snapping a 35-game losing streak to the Tigers on the road. Later, Western defeated Georgia, 7-5, before the Bulldogs won 23 of its last 28 to make its return trip to the College World Series.
Softball: In its first season of existence, the Catamount softball program, picked seventh in the preseason, won its first six league series en route to becoming the first, first-year program in Southern Conference history to win the league championship. The program shattered the SoCon record for home runs both as a team (81) and individually as Ashley Adams hit 21 bombs. In addition to having the SoCon Coach of the Year (Megan Smith), Pitcher of the Year (Mendy McKenzie) and Freshman of the Year (Jenny Jackson), Western had a total of six players named to the All-SoCon postseason team.
TIAA-CREF SoCon Student-Athletes of the Week (5) Baseball 3 Women's Golf 1 Soccer 1
TIAA-CREF SoCon All-Academic Team (63) Baseball 7 Women's Basketball 1 Cross Country 3 Football 5 Men's Golf 1 Women's Golf 4 Men's Indoor Track 2 Women's Indoor Track 10 Men's Outdoor Track 2 Women's Outdoor Track 9 Soccer 16 Tennis 2 Volleyball 1
All-Southern Conference (77 People Getting 118 Honors) Baseball 3 Women's Basketball 1 Cross Country 1 Football 10 Men's Golf 1 Women's Golf 2 Men's Indoor Track 19 people getting 32 honors Women's Indoor Track 9 people getting 12 honors Men's Outdoor Track 14 people getting 29 honors Women's Outdoor Track 9 people getting 19 honors Soccer 2
SoCon Individual Honors Lauren Powell - Women's Basketball SoCon Freshman of the Year Matt Cook - Men's Golf SoCon Player of the Year Zeb Johnson - Men's Indoor Track & Field SoCon Most Outstanding Track Performer Adam Puett - Men's Outdoor Track & Field SoCon Most Outstanding Track Performer Mendy McKenzie - Softball SoCon Pitcher of the Year Jenny Jackson - Softball SoCon Freshman of the Year Trish Hanson - SoCon Women's Tennis Sportsmanship Award Emily Pierce - SoCon David Knight Graduate Scholarship Megan Smith - Softball SoCon Coach of the Year Steve Lott - Women's Golf SoCon Coach of the Year Danny Williamson - Men's Indoor as well as Men's Outdoor Track & Field Coach of the Year
and College Baseball Foundation Trey McDaniel - National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association National Hitter
of the Week Jonathan Greene - Named one of Collegiate Baseball/"Louisville Slugger" National
Player of the Week Steven Strausbaugh - Named to the National Association of Baseball Coaches All-Atlantic
Region baseball team Mendy McKenzie - Named National Fastpitch Coaches Association Southeastern All-Region
softball team Ashley Adams - Named National Fastpitch Coaches Association Southeastern All-Region
softball team Emily Pierce - Tabbed All-District III Academic team by ESPN the Magazine and
selected Region 3 Finalist for an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship Danny Williamson - Men's Southeast Region Indoor Track & Field Coach of the Year and
Men's Southeast District Outdoor Track & Field Coach of the Year Tammy DeCesare - Runner-up for Southeast Regional Soccer Coach of the Year
SoCon Players of the Week (33) Baseball 5 Men's Basketball 1 Men's Cross Country 2 Football 2 Men's Golf 3 Women's Golf 1 Men's Indoor Track 1 Men's Outdoor Track 5 Women's Outdoor Track 2 Soccer 1 Softball 10
SoCon Players of the Month (16) Baseball 1 Men's Golf 2 Women's Golf 3 Men's Indoor Track 1 Men's Outdoor Track 3 Women's Outdoor Track 1 Soccer 1 Softball 4