After a no-sport fall in 2020, it was exciting to see how many spiders competed against each other on the pitch, court, grate, greens and more over the past two months. With so much going on on campus, it’s sometimes tempting to think we’ve finally gotten back to the familiar rhythms and routines we all enjoyed before the pandemic. As pleasant as this fiction may be, it is important to remember that our journey back to “normal” requires us to remain vigilant in our fight against COVID-19. Across campus, spiders of all stripes continue to make wise decisions to protect themselves from this horrific virus. Please make sure you do the same so that we can soon put this difficult time behind us.
As we near the middle of our fall sports season, I’d like to highlight a handful of outstanding accomplishments that we have already seen from Spiders this school year.
Spider Football enters its rivalry matchup with James Madison at 2-3 on Saturday, with two one-sided wins against Howard and Lehigh. The Spiders spent several weeks in the top 20 national rankings during the season and have a great chance of getting well and putting together some wins in the second half of their schedule. I hope all Spider fans from the area find their way to campus to support UR in its last three home games and see the latest Robins Stadium feature, a state-of-the-art LED video board in the northern end zone that measures 60 inches Meters wide and 28 meters high! It’s the newest (and perhaps the biggest) sign that Richmond Athletics is committed to providing our student-athletes and varsity programs with state-of-the-art sports facilities that give Spiders a strong home advantage.
May we all feel as comfortable at home as Spider Soccer has been this season. After beating Rhode Island on Sunday, Spider Soccer is now 5-0-1 at President’s Field and Marty Beall’s team has positioned itself near the top of the Atlantic 10 two weeks before the conference tournament begins.
Spider Field Hockey got off to a strong start to the conference season, winning three of the first four games. Additionally, the team deserves credit for testing its own against the best, as the Spiders competed against a ranked team in five out of nine non-conference games this year.
Our men’s and women’s cross-country teams are busy preparing for the Atlantic 10 Championship to be played in Dayton, Ohio on October 30th. The men’s team is defending its team title from last spring, while the women are aiming for their fourth championship in the past seven seasons.
The men’s and women’s tennis teams have achieved some early individual successes in their respective fall seasons, as has Spider Golf. Our men’s team won the 12-person VCU shootout in one fell swoop in front of the host’s rams in September, and our women’s team won the 13-team Navy Fall Invitational earlier this month. Although it’s only October, this is the first time since 2016/17 that both Spider golf programs have won an event in the same season!
With last year’s season disrupted by COVID-19, we are on the verge of one of the most anticipated basketball seasons in Richmond Athletics history. Our men’s team has already gained more than 400 new season ticket holders this off-season, and more than 97% of our existing season ticket holders have extended their seats for this season. This is already the most new season ticket and the highest renewal rate for our men’s basketball program. Expectations are also high for our women’s team, which has had a 13-9 season and is trying to increase its win rate for a fourth season in a row.
The hardwood isn’t the only place to see Spiders championship performances this winter. Our swimming and diving team will soon be back in the pool to defend their Atlantic 10 title in 2021. The Spiders will begin their run for the second consecutive conference crown October 22-23 when they host the Richmond Duals.
Our efforts to prepare Spider student athletes to thrive in competition, in the classroom, and in their future endeavors are endless and constantly changing. We are constantly working to find new ways to ensure the student-athlete experience at the University of Richmond is second to none. This goal was a driving factor behind our decision to launch the Spider Performance and Development Program (SPD) last fall. The SPD has one goal: to build champions for life. To this end, the program focuses on eight key areas: Academic Excellence, Leadership Development, Sports Performance & Analysis, Career Preparation & Alumni Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion, Nutrition, Sports Medicine & Wellbeing, and Mental Health & Sports Psychology. After a year of tremendous strides and positive reviews from current Spiders, we are committed to providing the resources necessary to take Spider’s performance and development program to the next level. During the SPD donation initiative of the Spider Athletic Fund from October 27th to November 5th, please keep an eye out for ways in which you can support this important endeavor.
Perhaps no group of Spiders can provide a better example of how they become lifelong champions than the 2021 class of the Richmond Athletics Hall of Fame announced earlier this month. Former basketball coach John Beilein, outstanding lacrosse woman Heather Gardner Quinn, quarterback Stacy Tutt, team doctor Dr. Chris Young and Helen Dodd Driscoll – who collectively earned 15 college letters in basketball, track and field, tennis, and field hockey – have contributed so much to the Spiders and earned a place alongside the all-time greats at Richmond Athletics. The Class of 2021 will be celebrated during a ceremony and reception on November 5th and honored on November 6th at halftime of our homecoming soccer game against Towson. I hope you will join me on campus this weekend when spiders from around the world return to Richmond to renew their connection with our wonderful university.
Take care of yourself, be healthy and…. Go spiders!
Vice President and Head of Athletics
John P. Hardt