This semester has been one of growth for the Owls Athletic programs. From championship highs to learning how to deal with personal loss, the Owls have demonstrated their motto of striving to win every day.
The semester started out with devastating news. On Jan. 28, Jason Trufant, The W’s athletic director, got a phone call from the wife of Gray Massey, the women’s soccer coach. Massey had died the night before in his sleep. This sent shockwaves throughout the Athletics Department. Coach Massey, 41, had lead his team to a 5-11 in the Owls inaugural season. However, wins and losses were not things that he was remembered for. Instead, it was his love for soccer, his team and his love for his family.
“He was a once-in-a-lifetime person, and everybody knows that,” Jason Trufant said.
The campus witnessed an outpouring of love and support for the Massey family and the Athletics Department.
The semester also began with the revival of basketball. While The W did have a basketball team in the past, it was a women’s team. This semester marked the first time that MUW would have a men’s basketball team. While the men had their inaugural season end in a 7-18, the women had a much more successful season.
Coach Howard White led the ladies to a 21-6 run that culminated in them bringing home the USCAA national championship.
“The main thing that brought that trophy home was our girls knowing how to play to win,” said Coach White.
The team was treated to a parade around downtown Columbus, riding on the top of the double decker bus flanked by President Nora Miller and Ody the Owl. Miller was beaming from ear-to-ear during the entire parade. She even got to inform the crowd, which included Columbus Mayor Robert Smith, that this was the second national championship that The W had won. The Owls won a national championship in 1971. Coach White hopes to gain some designated shooters and a younger base to build up within the off season.
Spring also brings baseball and softball. With basketball being the first championship, the softball and baseball teams hope to be numbers two and three. Last year both teams went to their respective playoffs and came up short, which lit a fire to bring home the championship this year.
Baseball currently sits at a 16-11 record with a Small College World Series berth just recently announced. Softball sits with a tremendous record of 22-9 this year and a No. 2 spot in the USCAA coaches poll.
“What makes our guys so great is their ability to come back,” Coach Matt Wolfenbarger said. “We’ve had seven or eight games that were comeback wins. They don’t panic and just keep playing.”
The two teams will be patiently awaiting the stream on May 6 that will announce what seed they will be getting in the playoffs, and who they will be playing.
In March the university’s Athletics program was accepted as a provisional member of the NCAA Division III, which is the largest division of the NCAA. This is the same division that includes Millsaps College and Belhaven University, which are also located in Mississippi.
“This acceptance is a true testament to the dedication, commitment and to the vision of the extraordinary efforts of our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” said Trufant. “We have taken large steps in such a short period of time as we continue to grow and enhance this already great university.”
Being a provisional member is a prerequisite to becoming an active member of NCAA Division III. The W hopes to transition out of the provisional stage in three years and is actively seeking a conference that will be the best fit for its athletic program.
Five more sports teams will be joining the Athletics program next year, bringing the total number of sports teams to 17.