Now in the thick of the spring athletic season, Reinhardt is experiencing an unprecedented period of success with five different programs represented in the national polls.
“All of our teams are competing at a very high level,” Reinhardt athletic director Bill Popp said. “We have worked really hard to get to this high of a level and feel like our hard work is starting to pay off for sure.”
The highest-ranked team is currently the Reinhardt women’s lacrosse squad, which is currently tied for fourth in the National Women’s Lacrosse League Top 10 Coaches Poll. With a program-record 11 victories under the guidance of first-year coach Christine Hatton this season, the Lady Eagles have a chance to win more games in one year than they have in the previous three combined.
It wasn’t long ago that the women’s lacrosse program was struggling to find qualified players. Just a year ago they went 2-10 and were winless in their conference. Popp attributes much of the change to Hatton.
“She came in and kind of got things in order and got things going in the right direction,” Popp said. “She was only able to sign a handful of players coming in and I think we will only continue to see more and more success from her program.”
Meanwhile the men’s lacrosse team just broke into its poll. The Eagles are now ranked No. 25 in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association Division II Top 25 Poll. Winning their last five games, the Eagles have improved to 10-2 on the season.
Reinhardt’s softball team is currently ranked No. 11 in the NAIA Top 25 Coaches Poll. The Lady Eagles (32-7) were ranked No.5 in the pre-season and have held a poll spot all year.
Two other Reinhardt programs are receiving votes in their respective polls. For the second straight week the baseball team garnered votes in the NAIA Top 25 Poll. The Eagles are coming off a sweep of Bryan and now stand 26-13 overall and 11-4 in Appalachian Athletic Conference play. As the conference leaders, they are poised to break into the rankings should they post another solid week of play.
The final Reinhardt program collecting votes is the women’s tennis team. For the first time in history the Lady Eagles are receiving votes in the NAIA Top 25.
In all, nine Reinhardt athletic programs have either received votes or been ranked in a Top 25 poll for the 2013-14 year. In addition to the football team, which was ranked as high as No. 19 during its inaugural season, the women’s soccer, men’s basketball and men’s golf teams have all received votes at various points in their campaigns.
Popp attributes all the success to a combination of talented athletes and solid coaches.
“Our coaches do a great job of recruiting and finding the local kids,” Popp said. “We are getting some great athletes as well.”
Reinhardt focuses its recruiting efforts on a circle that approximates a two-hour drive from the campus in Waleska. However, as athletic programs have found success, the name “Reinhardt” has drawn some attention from around the country.
“I hope that we continue on the trend that we are on not only at the conference level by winning conference championships, but by making a bigger dent in the national scene,” Popp said.
In turn the athletic success leads to more name recognition and stronger academic programs. Popp sees it as a circle.
“A good example of that is football and the spark that they gave us by being nationally ranked,” Popp said. “Then people knew the name ‘Reinhardt’. People out west know it from softball. I think athletics has a huge effect on the university as far as what people think of it. We continue to grow academically, so we are building it up on both ends.”