October 1, 2014

The Sporting Insider

Eagles Ready To Fly

Josh Sellmeyer, Journal sports editor

The Golden Eagles of Spalding University are ready to soar in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

OK, maybe not soar. But Spalding has fielded several competitive teams since the institution was admitted to the SLIAC in September 2008. The Golden Eagles will finally have a chance to make some noise in the postseason starting later this year.

Spalding, which is located in Louisville, Ky., began competing in the SLIAC during the 2009-2010 academic year as a provisional member. In attempting to gain NCAA status, Spalding is going through a four-year provisional/reclassifying process before its athletic teams can qualify for SLIAC and NCAA tournaments.

When the 2012-2013 academic year rolls around, Spalding will shed its provisional nametag and become a full member of the SLIAC and the NCAA’s third division — as long as the school gets through this year without any issues. The Golden Eagles will no longer be the school that SLIAC schools don’t have to fret over.

While SLIAC schools shouldn’t be quivering over Spalding’s athletic prowess, they shouldn’t overlook the university, either. Spalding has an enrollment of about 960 undergraduate students, which places the school fifth in the SLIAC (Webster University tops the list with an undergraduate enrollment of about 2,600 students).

Spalding doesn’t have immaculate facilities (its gym is the university’s only on-campus facility), and it doesn’t have a particularly strong athletics pedigree. But like Webster, Spalding is located in a big city. That’s a massive recruiting advantage the other eight SLIAC schools don’t have. The potential for Spalding to be good — maybe even great — is there, based solely on the university’s location.

Right now, from an athletic standpoint, I’d consider Spalding a third-tier SLIAC school. Webster, which has won the All-Sports Award 11 of the past 12 years (and is well on its way to another win this year), deserves to stand alone on the No. 1 tier. Greenville College, Westminster College and Fontbonne University are on the second tier.

Principia College and Spalding are on Tier 3, while Blackburn College, Eureka College and MacMurray College make up my bottom tier. Of the schools in the bottom-half of the conference, the one with the most potential to challenge the top SLIAC schools and consistently beat them is Spalding.

So, starting next year, certain Webster programs should keep an eye on the Golden Eagles. In the fall, Spalding’s men’s cross-country team has been impressive. The Golden Eagles finished third in the SLIAC championship each of the past two seasons.

But without question, the scariest Spalding fall sports team (and probably the scariest team overall) is volleyball. The Golden Eagles finished third in the SLIAC standings this past season with a 13-3 record. They came to Grant Gymnasium on Oct. 7 and handed the Gorloks one of their two SLIAC losses. They will get a chance to do even more damage next season.

Both the Spalding men’s and women’s basketball teams will be in the mix to qualify for the SLIAC tournament next winter. Had they been eligible this year, the fourth-place Golden Eagles would have kept the Webster women’s team from making the conference tourney.

In the spring, both the Spalding softball and baseball teams should find their way into the tournament. The softball squad is 9-3 in the conference this year, while the baseball team is 10-6.

Overall, the Golden Eagles probably won’t derail the Gorloks’ SLIAC dominance in the next few years. But several years down the road, who knows? Spalding has as good a chance as any to move up the SLIAC ladder. It will be fun to follow the Golden Eagles’ progress next year and beyond.

WP Like Button Plugin by Free WordPress Templates