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Paul WetmoreHead Coach
College: Liberty ('88)
Start Date: 05/01/1993
The goal of every athlete, regardless of the level of competition, is to not only face off against the world's best competition, but to beat the best.
That rule of thumb spreads further than just those wearing numbered uniforms on the athletic battlefield, but is also the singular focus of each member of the coaching staff.
Head coach Paul Wetmore, who is in his 16th year at the helm of the Lady Flames softball program, is a living testament to this aspiration. The skipper, who holds the second-longest coaching tenure at Liberty, has led his squad to new heights, seemingly each and every year.
It took 518 games and nine seasons to reach one of his main goals, but if you asked Wetmore he would say it was worth every day of practice, every long bus ride, every win and even every loss as he guided his squad to its first-ever Big South Conference championship in 2002.
The irony of the story is that Wetmore, the winningest coach in the history of the program with 413 career wins (entering the 2008 season) and the most victorious coach in all Liberty athletics history, accomplished the goal with one of his lesser-talented teams.
However, the squad rallied from a .500 regular season and a fifth-place seeding entering the conference tournament to post four-consecutive upset victories en route to the championship, earning the program's first-ever trip to an NCAA Regional.
"It was such a great opportunity to win the Big South as it was something we had been working toward for nine years," said Wetmore. "It is a great milestone in the history of the program and certainly something to build on for the future."
After the ceremonial trimming of his two-decade old mustache at Winthrop's home plate just minutes after the conclusion of the 1-0 victory over the host school (a reward Wetmore had been promising for years to the team that won the first championship), Wetmore took his squad to Columbia, S.C., to face the number-one seed and the top-ranked team in the nation in UCLA.
Unshaken by their opponent's lofty credentials, the Lady Flames played toe-to-toe with the best team in land as the game was scoreless heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. However, the Bruins showed why they were the nation's top-ranked team and eventually pulled away from Liberty for a 3-0 victory.
The Lady Flames also dropped a 7-1 decision to former Big South opponent UMBC in the second game, but walked away from the entire experience with great joy and respect and a new goal to achieve – a return trip.
Success has been no stranger to Wetmore over the years, who was named the program's fourth head coach in 1994 as the school reinstalled the program after a seven-year layoff. He has guided the program to seven seasons with 30-plus wins over the past 14 years, half the years he has overseen the program.
The 2000 season proved to be another one of Wetmore's more successful campaign, as the Lady Flames surpassed the 30-win plateau for the fifth-consecutive year with a 34-29 record. The team finished 9-1 in the Big South regular season standings, claiming the university's first-ever outright Big South regular-season title.
Liberty also made its second appearance in the title game of the Big South Softball Championship, as the Lady Flames also advanced to the final game of the 1998 Big South Championship.
For his efforts, Wetmore was honored as the Co-Big South Coach of the Year in 2000. This marked the third time in his career Wetmore has been honored as the league's top coach as he shared the honors with Radford's Charlie Gunter in 1996, while winning the award outright in 1999 after guiding the Lady Flames to a school-record 41-25 mark.
The goal of beating the nation's best moved from a preseason commitment card to a reality over the last three years, as Liberty has picked up its most notable wins under Wetmore since 2005.
Liberty began the successful run against nationally ranked programs with a 2-1 upset of No. 25 Texas A&M Corpus Christi in 2005, then an associate member of the Big South for softball.
The following season, Liberty took to the softball diamond for its annual tilt with in-state foe Virginia Tech, who entered the game ranked No. 24. The star-studded night saw the Lady Flames' bats came alive in the first for a 6-5 win, followed by a 3-0 shutout, giving Liberty its first-ever sweep over a Top 25 program.
However, the crowning run of success against the nation's best under Wetmore took place in 2007, when the skipper challenged his senior-laden squad with the most daunting schedule in program history.
But the talented crew responded to the menacing slate, starting with a 4-3 victory over host and No. 23 Hawaii at the Bank of Hawaii Invitational on March 14.
Two days later, the Lady Flames proved the victory was no fluke, as the Lady Flames shutout No. 10 and NCAA World Series participant Baylor, 4-0, closing out Liberty's first-ever trip outside the continental United States.
However, one of the crowning victories in Wetmore's legacy at Liberty came on March 26, 2007, when his Lady Flames shutout 2005 NCAA National Champions Michigan, who was ranked No. 6 at the time, at the Women4Women Invitational in Louisville, Ky.
The victory marked the third highest ranked opponent a Liberty athletics team has defeated in department history, falling only behind the baseball team's victory over No. 3 Wake Forest in 2002 and the men's soccer team's win over No. 5 Wake Forest in 2000. The baseball program also knocked off No. 6 Clemson in 2000, tying softball program's effort against the Wolverines.
Wetmore has had the privilege of coaching some of the best athletes to don a Liberty uniform. Under his watch, a Lady Flame has been named the top player in the state of Virginia five times, garnering the VaSID honor in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2007.
Shannon Tanski, who ranks second all-time in school history with a .384 career batting average and 37 home runs, took home the award in 1997, and Stacy Radulovich, the school's all-time leader with 226 career hits, 167 runs scored and 80 stolen bases, received the award in 1998.
In 1999, Meredith Hollyfield was named the Co-VaSID Player of the Year after driving in a then school-record 60 RBI. Hollyfield was also named the Big South's Player of the Year, marking the first time Wetmore had coached a league player of the year. Freshman Cheryl Wyrick was named Co-Big South Rookie of the Year to account for the second time in Wetmore's tenure that a Lady Flame had been named the league's top newcomer.
In 2004, under Wetmore's tutelage, the Lady Flames had their third player honored as the top player in the league as Amanda Maska won Big South Player of the Year honors behind a career-best .409 batting average, 10 home runs and 41 RBI. She was also tabbed VaSID Player of the Year as well.
In 2006, Wetmore returned his program to the glory years of the late ‘90s as the Lady Flames tied the 1999 squad for victories in a season by finishing the year 41-23. Liberty broke 10-team and six-individual records during the campaign.
Wetmore was once again honored for his efforts as he was named VaSID Coach of the Year, marking the fourth time in his career he has garnered the honor to tie for the most by a head coach in the state SID organization's history.
The 14-year skipper's most recent success story came in a transfer from Charlotte, who in just three years at Liberty rewrote the Lady Flames' record books. Jessica Moore, a two-time VaSID State Player of the Year and Liberty's only repeat Big South Player of the Year, finished her career atop almost every offensive category in program history.
She is the only player in program history to post a better than .400 career batting average (.419), to go along with 229 career hits, 191 runs scored and astonishing 58 home runs.
Following the conclusion of her collegiate playing days, Moore became Wetmore's first-ever recruited athlete to play professionally when she signed a contract with the Washington Glory. The Chesapeake, Va., native made an immediate impact on the squad, helping the Glory claim the National Pro Fastball championship in 2007.
Prior to his days with the Lady Flames, Wetmore logged over 30 years as both a player and coach at all levels of the softball and baseball ranks. He was a four-year letterman at Valley Regional High School in Deep River, Conn., before receiving an invitation to try out with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Over his two-decade long coaching career, Wetmore guided numerous boys' and girls' and men's and women's softball squads at all levels to various championships. He has also served in several administrative capacities, ranging from Little League Vice President to instructional camp organizer for players and umpires.
Wetmore has been affiliated with the University for over 19 years as he served as University's Director of Printing Services for 16 years, including several years in dual positions as head softball coach and printing department director.
A native of Connecticut, Wetmore and his wife, Cynthia, now reside in the Lynchburg area. The couple has two children, Todd, who is the Assistant Athletics Director for Athletic Media Relations at the University, and daughter, Amy.