The only way to go is up.
That philosophy has been more of a rule for the Butler women's basketball team during head coach Beth Couture's time with the program. The seventh-year mentor has continued to lead the Bulldogs to new heights with each successive season at the helm, including their first 20-win campaign in 10 seasons last year.
When Couture first stepped onto the Butler campus, she knew she faced one of the toughest challenges of her coaching career. The Bulldog team that went 3-26 the season before she took the reins hardly resembled her squads at Presbyterian College, where she won nearly 70 percent of her games over the course of 13 seasons.
But after developing the roster she inherited and infusing it with several talented recruiting classes, Couture has the Bulldogs consistently ranked among the Horizon League's best.
After doubling their win total in Couture's first year at the helm, the Bulldogs have gone on to either match or increase their total victories in every season since. Along the way, has had six members named to All-Horizon League teams, four tabbed to the All-Newcomer Team and four more mentioned on the All-Defensive squad. Additionally, three players (Lade Akande, Jackie Closser and Ellen Hamilton) have totaled over 1,000 points while playing their entire careers under Couture's tutelage.
Butler finished the 2003-04 campaign with a 14-15 record, including a 9-7 league mark and appearance in the semi-finals of the league tournament. The Bulldogs came together when it counted most, posting victories in nine of the team's final 13 games to climb into the top half of the Horizon League standings for their first winning league record in five seasons. The team's success also ranked as the 14th greatest improvement in the NCAA that season.
A 14-14 overall record followed in 2004-05, before the Bulldogs improved to 15-14 in 2005-06 for the team's first above-.500 overall mark since 1998-99.
Butler increased its win total again in 2006-07, finishing with a 16-15 overall record and 11-5 mark in league play to place in a second-place tie in the conference, the team's best league record and highest standing in nearly 10 years. The season culminated with the Bulldogs topping both Youngstown State and UIC in the Horizon League Tournament and making their first appearance in the championship game since 1998.
The 2007-08 season was the program's most successful under Couture, as the Bulldogs finished with a 20-10 overall record, the best mark since the 1997-98 team went 25-6. Included in that figure was a dominant 10-1 record in non-league play, the best total since the 1990-91 team notched a 10-1 slate.
Couture began her collegiate head coaching career in 1989-90 at Presbyterian College. Thirteen successful seasons later, she had compiled an impressive 258-117 (.688) overall record, including eight 20-win seasons. In addition, she led the program to six trips to the NCAA Division II national tournament in her final nine years.
She led the team to three-straight South Atlantic Conference (SAC) regular season and SAC Tournament titles from 1998 to 2000. A four-time SAC "Coach of the Year" recipient, Couture mentored 18 all-conference selections and three conference "Players of the Year."
The 1999-2000 team went 28-2 and won the SAC regular season title with a 15-1 record. The Blue Hose also won the SAC Tournament title and hosted the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Regional Tournament. PC was ranked as high as fourth in the nation during that season.
The only coach in the conference's history to be named "Coach of the Year" in two different women's sports, Couture guided the Blue Hose volleyball team to three national tournaments, including the school's first-ever NCAA postseason appearance in 1993. She served as the team's head coach from 1987-93, amassing an overall record of 233-50, winning SAC Volleyball "Coach of the Year" awards on three occasions. Couture also served as an assistant director of athletics from 1993-2002.
Couture spent two seasons as an assistant at Presbyterian from 1987-89, arriving after three years at the helm of Dixie High School in Due West, S.C., where she posted a 49-28 record.
Couture's commitment to academics has also been at the forefront of her career, as 25 of her student-athletes were named to the SAC Academic Honor Roll throughout her tenure at Presbyterian.
The trend has continued at Butler as nine of her 14 players earned recognition on the Butler Athletic Director's Academic Honor Roll during the Fall, 2004 semester.
A native of Greenville, S.C., Couture is a 1984 graduate of Erskine College where she was a four-time MVP selection in basketball for the Flying Fleet. A Kodak All-American honoree as a senior, Couture was inducted into the Erskine College Hall of Fame in December of 1989.
She earned a bachelor's of science degree in physical education from Erskine and went on to complete a master's degree in the same field at Furman University in 1987.