UWF Athletics Recording A Banner Year
Update Monday, May 29:
Since this story was first reported, the No. 10 University of West Florida softball team ended its season on Saturday afternoon with a 1-0 loss to West Virginia Wesleyan in the NCAA Championships in Salem.
The Argonauts’ ended their season with a record of 46-15, giving the program its most wins and highest winning percentage (.754) since 2005, and UWF’s 88 wins over the last two years are the most in a two-year span since 2005-06.
The team also made its deepest NCAA Tournament run in program history, tying the 2000 team’s 1-2 record in Tournament play.
UWF MEN’S GOLF:
The top-ranked UWF men's golf team also saw its season come to an end, just short of the national title match. The Argonauts fell to Florida Southern, 3-2, in medal/match play at the 2017 NCAA Division II Men's Golf Championships at the Reunion Resort's Watson Course Thursday.
UWF finished in a tie for third, their highest finish since winning the second of its two national titles back in 2008.
University of West Florida junior Chandler Blanchet came from behind yesterday to win the 2017 NCAA Division II Men’s Golf Individual National Championship.
It’s the latest feather in the cap for the UWF Athletics program, which is having one of its most successful years ever. And, this week, more national titles could be added.
Given all the success across UWF sports this year, Athletic Director Dave Scott might be having as much fun as his student-athletes. But then again, since he took over the job in 2008, Scott has had a lot of good years, to include being awarded Division II Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year.
“I remember in ’13-’14, I want to say we had eight conference championships,” Scott said. “But, I’d say overall for post season NCAA, this has got to be the best year we’ve had. And, we just finished getting the men’s all sports trophy and women’s all sports trophy and overall sports trophy for our conference.”
In the Gulf South Conference, UWF was bolstered by tournament championships in women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, and men’s golf, and regular season championships in women’s basketball and volleyball.
Looking back over the course of the entire year, UWF football competed in its inaugural season. The UWF women’s basketball team broke through to win its first regional title and women’s soccer won its third regional championship in the past five years.
There were individual national titles in swimming and diving from Theresa Malachak and Monica Amarol.
Earlier this month in Altamonte Springs, FL, head coach Derrick Racine and his squad won the 2017 NCAA Division II National Championship for men’s tennis, the program’s fourth overall (2004, 2005, 2014).
“This team, we always say ‘it’s a family,” said Racine. “We’re playing for all the alumni out there. We’re playing for all our fans. We’re playing for our shirt, the University of West Florida.”
Scott added, “Yeah, I mean that’s just another great experience down there with Derrick Racine. You know, we’ve been blessed. if you look at a lot of other college athletic programs, you don’t have people stick around 15-16-17 years.”
Scott, who’s now served as athletic director for about nine years, credits the institution and the community.
“This is an area they want to raise their kids, a place they want to be a part of, a great experience for them as adults,” said Scott. “Then throw in for them a place where I can compete nationally and regionally at a school that has great academic programs.”
Another example of longevity with great success is UWF men’s golf. It’s become one of the top programs in the country under the leadership of head coach Steve Fell, winning two national championships (2001 & 2008) thus far; this week at the DII National Championships in Kissimmee, FL.
On Wednesday, Blanchet won the individual title, and there’s a chance for more as the team competition gets underway.
Cheers erupted last Friday as the last out, a strike out, was recorded to end a two-games-to-none sweep of Lee University in the NCAA Softball Super Regional at the UWF Softball Complex.
The victory gave the program their third regional title and third trip to this week’s College World Series.
“Fun place to be, you know whatever the success that we’re having out here, we’re just trying to keep up with the Joneses in the (athletic) department,” said Head Coach Melissa Paul. “It’s a lot of fun here.”
The team won the NAIA National Championship in back 1993. But, Paul is in just her third year leading the program. With a record of 45-13 and an appearance in the national championship, it’s been a remarkable turnaround for the team, which finished her first year (2015) with just 19 wins, 11 games below .500.
“Oh, yea, we envisioned it,” Paul said. “We’ve been working on that stuff. You know, everyone gets to see the product out here, but they don’t get to see all the things we do day in and day out, and all the hard work and sweat and tears we put it into it. And, it’s just nice to see them have the success out on the field.”
“Honestly, it’s an insane feeling,” said junior second-baseman Megan Toney. “You know, I’ve been here since I was a freshman. And, if someone told me my freshman year that this is where we’d be, I honestly probably wouldn’t believe it. But, Coach Paul has done an amazing job coming in here and changing the program and we’re blessed for it.”
That brings us back to Athletic Director Dave Scott, who was on hand as the softball team won their way into the Elite Eight for the first time since 2003.
“It’s been a while, this has just been a great day,” he said with a big smile. “You know it’s been a great spring for our student athletes and our coaches. And, you know this is the fun part about college athletics to see the students out here and excited and having a good time and you know the experience they’re (going to) have going on to the college world series.”
The 2017 DII Softball Championship is taking place in Salem, VA. The Argos, the sixth seed, will open play against #3 Armstrong State this Thursday evening, with game time now pushed back to 6:30 Central.
As the men's golf championship continues in Kissimmee, the UWF men’s team is one of eight that will take part in medal-or-match play.
Audio and photos used in this report are courtesy of UWF Athletic Communications. Sandra Averhart works part time for the department as Public Address Announcer for UWF Softball and Volleyball.