Reinhardt sports information director Jason Hanes compared lacrosse to sand volleyball, a sport recently introduced to the NCAA.
“Sand volleyball is considered an emerging sport in the NCAA and they are just now starting to do championships for it,” Hanes said. “We are looking probably, in the next year or two, for (lacrosse) to be an emerging sport in the NAIA and for this to be a championship sport nationally. So we are kind of one of those first programs on the way. We are on the forefront of this.
“We already consider it a varsity program. There just aren’t enough NAIA programs nationally to make it an NAIA-sanctioned sport.”
Reinhardt treats the lacrosse program as though it were an NAIA-sponsored sport. The players must maintain eligibility, and scholarships are offered. The team competes in Division II of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association Division and is in the Southeastern Lacrosse Conference.
The Eagles are 8-0 entering today’s game at Tennessee Wesleyan College.
Reinhardt has shown remarkable improvement during its three years of existence. Once on the receiving end of crushing defeats, the Eagles are now dealing their own — posting a 21-5 victory over Georgia State in a scrimmage and nearly shutting out Chattanooga 14-1. They have won by an average of more than 10 goals per game.
Reinhardt, coached by John Snow, has a 2-0 record among teams in the Southwest Division, which also includes Emory, Tennessee Wesleyan, Kennesaw State and Emmanuel.
Hanes said the Eagles have a pretty large fan base on campus, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the amount of growth the sport has seen in Cherokee County.
That growth is translating directly to Reinhardt in the form of local talent. The Eagles’ roster includes several players from the county, including Max Thomas (Etowah), Chase Holmes (Cherokee), Dillon Thompson (Woodstock) and Ben Sparks (Sequoyah).
In five games, Thomas has six assists and one goal, while Sparks has one goal.
Anthony Pradella leads the team with 15 goals and five assists. Goalkeeper Erik Carson is averaging 11.2 saves per game.
After traveling to Tennessee Wesleyan today, the Eagles’ next home game will come Wednesday against St. Andrews (N.C.).