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Paul WetmoreHead Coach
College: Liberty ('88)
Start Date: 05/01/1993
The goal of every athlete is not only to compete against the world's best competition, but to beat the best. That rule of thumb spreads further than just those wearing numbered uniforms, and is the singular focus of each member of the coaching staff.
Head coach Paul Wetmore, who is in his 20th 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.
Wetmore, the Lady Flames' head coach since the program's rebirth in 1994 (after a seven-year layoff) is the winningest coach in the history of Liberty softball with 527 career wins and the most victorious coach in all of Liberty athletics history.
His time at Liberty has seen the Lady Flames emerge as perennial contenders in the Big South. The Lady Flames have won a pair of Big South tournament titles, in 2002 and 2011, and have appeared in the conference final on six occasions. Additionally, Liberty claimed Big South regular-season crowns in 1999, 2000 and 2007.
Wetmore has been recognized for his strong leadership, with three Big South Coach of the Year awards (1996, 1999 and 2000) and four VaSID State Coach of the Year honors (1996-98, 2006) to his credit.
Overall, Liberty has recorded 30 or more wins in nine of Wetmore's 19 seasons at the helm, with six 35-win seasons and two 41-win campaigns (1999 and 2006 – a program record) highlighting his tenure.
The 2011 campaign proved to be a historic one for the Liberty softball program. The Lady Flames finished with a 30-30 record and earned their second Big South tournament championship, defeating Radford, 3-1, in the final on May 14 in Rock Hill, S.C.
Liberty qualified for the NCAA Softball Championship Knoxville Regional, where the Lady Flames faced No. 5 Tennessee and No. 19 Georgia Tech.
Also during the year, Liberty defeated Norfolk State, 7-1, on April 20, giving Wetmore his 500th career victory. He is the third Big South softball head coach to amass 500 or more wins during their career. At the time of his 400th career victory, April 4, 2008, he was one of only 89 softball coaches in Division I history to have reached 400 wins.
Senior Pitcher Tiffani Smith capped her record-setting career, which included being named the 2010 Big South Pitcher of the Year, by being tabbed the Big South Tournament MVP.
Kelly Strickland was named 2011 Big South Co-Player of the Year, making her the sixth Lady Flame to receive the award. Additionally, she became the first Liberty softball All-American when she earned Easton Fastpitch All-America honors.
In 2010, the Lady Flames went 39-18, posting a school-record 13 conference wins and recording an undefeated record (10-0) at home in Big South play. Liberty ran off the longest winning streak in program history, reeling off 12 consecutive victories, from April 12-21.
Liberty earned a spot in the Big South final in back-to-back years, 2008 and 2009. In 2008, a 20-win Liberty squad found its stride during the Big South Championship, before a 6-1 loss to Winthrop in the final. The team won 10 conference games in 2009, and handed tournament champion Radford their only loss of the championship, before falling to the Highlanders in the title game.
The 2007 Lady Flames went 36-26, and tied for their third Big South regular-season crown and first since 2000. One year prior, in 2006, Liberty posted a 41-23 record, tying the program standard for victories in a season. Liberty broke 10 team and six individual records during the campaign.
Wetmore was named VaSID Coach of the Year in 2006, his first since a three-year run (1996-98) of earning the top coaching honor in the Commonwealth. At the time, he tied Scot Thomas of Virginia Tech for the most times being named VaSID Coach of the Year.
The Lady Flames have regularly competed against the nation's best teams. Liberty has defeated six ranked opponents, with a 2-1 win over No. 25 Texas A&M Corpus-Christi (March 15, 2005) serving as the first win over a Top 25 team in program history. The team added a pair of victories over Virginia Tech on May 4, 2006.
The 2007 season saw Liberty compete in 12 games against nationally-ranked opponents. The Lady Flames won three of those contests, highlighted by a 2-0 win over No. 6 Michigan on March 24. Michigan is the third-highest ranked opponent that any Liberty team has beaten. Liberty also downed No. 10 Baylor and No. 23 Hawaii in 2007.
Liberty reached the top of the Big South for the first time by virtue of their conference tournament championship in 2002. The Lady Flames entered the tournament as the No. 5 seed, and posted four straight upset victories, including a 1-0 win over Winthrop in the final game on May 12, 2002. Pitcher Ali Thompson earned Big South Tournament MVP honors for her efforts.
The Lady Flames competed in NCAA Regional play for the first time in program history traveling to Columbia, S.C. to face the top-ranked team in the nation, UCLA. The Bruins broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning, pulling away for a 3-0 win on May 16, 2002. The Lady Flames also dropped a 7-1 decision to former Big South opponent UMBC in their second game at the regional.
The 2000 season proved to be another one of Wetmore's more successful campaigns, 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, falling twice in extra innings to champion Coastal Carolina.
For his efforts, Wetmore was honored as the Co-Big South Coach of the Year in 2000. It was the third time in his career Wetmore was honored as the league's top coach. He shared the honors in 1996, while winning the award outright in 1999 after guiding the Lady Flames to a school-record 41-25 mark.
The 1998 season continued Liberty's string of 30-win seasons, and the Lady Flames met Coastal Carolina on May 3, in the team's first-ever appearance in the Big South Championship final. Katie Phillips was named Co-Tournament MVP for helping the fifth-seeded Lady Flames make the final.
Wetmore has coached some of the top players in Liberty softball history. 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. He has also coached five Big South Players of the Year, in 2000, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2011.
Under Wetmore's guidance, Liberty softball players have received 57 all-conference mentions and 36 VaSID all-state honors. Additionally, the program's record books have been almost completely re-written during Wetmore's 18 seasons at Liberty.
Shannon Tanski and Stacy Radulovich won VaSID State Player of the Year honors in 1997 and 1998, respectively. In 1999, Meredith Hollyfield was named the Co-VaSID Player of the Year, and was also named the Big South's Player of the Year, marking the first time Wetmore had coached a league player of the year.
In 2004 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. She was also tabbed VaSID Player of the Year that season.
Jessica Moore, a two-time VaSID State Player of the Year (2006-07) and Liberty's only repeat Big South Player of the Year (2005 and 2007), became Wetmore's first-ever recruited athlete to play professionally when she signed a contract with the Washington Glory.
Strickland, Liberty's first softball All-American, earned the program's fifth conference Player of the Year award, being named Big South Co-Player of the Year in 2011.
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 Liberty University for over 25 years. He served as the university's Director of Printing Services for 16 years, including several years while he was also head softball coach.
A native of Connecticut, Wetmore and his wife, Cynthia, reside in the Lynchburg area. The couple has two children, Todd, who is the Associate Athletics Director for Athletics Communications at Liberty, and daughter, Amy.