Fall 2023 Magazine Westmont Brings a Winning Tradition to NCAA Division II

by Jacob Norling '20

The Westmont Warriors have officially begun a new era. After competing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) since the early 1940s and the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) since 1986, the college has successfully completed the first year of reclassification to NCAA Division II membership. This fall, the Warriors began play in the PacWest Conference.

“Westmont athletic programs have enjoyed a rich history with the NAIA,” says Robert Ruiz, director of athletics. “This partnership produced profound memories, experiences and opportunities for our student-athletes for many years. Although our time with the NAIA has ended, our decades of membership will remain a rich part of Warrior Athletics history.”

The Warriors closed out their time in both the GSAC and the NAIA in grand fashion, making history by winning the GSAC All Sports Award for the 10th consecutive season. During the 2022-23 school year, Westmont captured regular season championships in women’s volleyball, women’s soccer, women’s basketball and baseball. The Warriors also won the GSAC Tournament in baseball.

“The move to the NCAA marks a monumental moment for our athletic programs and the Westmont community.”

Robert Ruiz, Director of Athletics

The Westmont baseball team played the college’s final NAIA game on June 2 in Lewiston, Idaho. That night, the Warriors defeated Lewis-Clark State to win the first National Championship in program history and the 10th NAIA National Championship for Westmont.

Baseball’s championship came 51 years after Westmont first hoisted an NAIA National Championship trophy, when the men’s soccer team captured the title in 1972. Ten years later, women’s tennis followed suit by winning it all.

Women’s soccer, Westmont’s most dominant program at the NAIA level, won the first of their multiple championships in 1985. They went on to repeat as national champions in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2003. The 2003 championship holds a special place in Warrior history as the women won the final game in a seven-overtime victory played in front of 3,000 fans at La Playa Stadium in Santa Barbara.

Women's Soccer NAIA National Champions

In 2013, Kirsten Moore’s women’s basketball team won its first NAIA National Championship. Eight years later, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Moore and the Warriors did it again as they hoisted the red banner in 2021.

“I’m so grateful for the years that Westmont has competed in the NAIA,” Moore says. “The NAIA National Tournament experience has been life-shaping for our players and coaches. The resiliency it takes to win five games in six days en route to a National Championship requires a level of grit that our Warriors will carry with them in life.

“Even in the years we fell short of our goals, the experience challenged us to grow, stretch and improve in hopes of a better result the following year.”

In addition, 33 Westmont teams in 11 programs finished in the top four. Most recently, Russell Smelley’s 2021 men’s track and field team left the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships with a fourth-place trophy, their highest finish in program history.

Individually, the Warriors garnered 637 NAIA All-American honors, with Zola Sokhela, the final athlete to achieve this honor, becoming a 14-time NAIA All-American during a National Championship-winning 800 meter run outdoors in 2023. Overall, Westmont’s women’s  track and field team collected 178 NAIA All-American honors, with the men’s track and field team earning 174. Dave Thoreson became Westmont’s first All-American in the men’s high jump in 1962.

The Warriors’ first official NCAA Division II game took place on August 31, when men’s soccer hosted Saint Martin’s. The team’s first win occurred a day later, with the women’s volleyball team defeating MSU Mankato in four sets. Fittingly, Sokhela became the first Warrior to earn honors as PacWest Athlete of the Week on September 11.

“The move to the NCAA marks a monumental moment for our athletic programs and the Westmont community,” Ruiz says. “We look forward to the new partnership in the PacWest Conference and the opportunity to challenge ourselves in a different landscape.”

NCAA II Logo Make It Yours


In July, Jeff Raymond, Westmont’s compliance coordinator, reflected on the transition to the NCAA. “Fortunately, anyone associated with Westmont Athletics can look back at the last 80 years and see the history of success,” he said. “If the past is a way to judge the future, Westmont and its NCAA athletics programs will rise to the challenge.”

The college remains ever grateful for the foundation of our history at the NAIA level while excitedly beginning a new era in the NCAA.

Fall 2023 Athletic Awards