When the band strikes up the fight song, "Spider Born and Spider Bred," I can honestly say that I embody that phrase. I have been a Spider fan since I was born: My parents are alumni; I live a hop, skip and a jump away from campus; I was one of those little kids who sled down the hill on cardboard boxes at football games at UR Stadium and who was ecstatic whenever I got a high-five from Spidey.
I guess that it is only appropriate that I'm the new sports editor for The Collegian. Even through the dark times of Spider sports I stayed a true fan, proudly sporting Richmond gear in front of my friends who donned the ever-present University of Virginia and Virginia Tech hoodies that were prevalent throughout my elementary, middle and high school years.
I would often get into heated debates with my UVa and Virginia Tech friends about which school was better at sports. Oftentimes, my Hokie friends won the squabble when it was about football because of Virginia Tech's dominance with multiple Bowl Championship Series trips. When basketball season came around, my Cavalier friends would try to assert their prowess as fans of one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's perennial powerhouses.
While I often came up short on arguments simply because Richmond had been in lesser-known conferences and thus had not always garnered national attention, I am confident now that I can win any argument about which school has performed better in athletics within the past three years -- coincidentally enough, the same amount of time that I have been enrolled here.
Within the past three years, Richmond has made tremendous strides in the realm of college sports, while UVa has fallen off of its Cavalier high horse and Virginia Tech has cowered in the dog house.
During the 2008 and 2009 football seasons, UVa won a combined eight games. At the same time, Richmond went 24-5, capturing an FCS National Championship in 2008 and continuing its supremacy in the Colonial Athletic Association by winning the conference championship during 2009.
While Richmond was not able to win the matchup against UVa during the 2008 season, I think we got the ultimate revenge with a national championship that bolstered our growing reputation as a school with reputable academics as well as impressive sports programs.
Virginia Tech football, meanwhile, continued its excellence with remarkable records and bowl game wins, but one of the program's most notable alums, Michael Vick, created unflattering press for the school with his conviction of operating an unlawful interstate dog-fighting ring.
Despite Richmond football's resurgence in the past few seasons, local and national media outlets still favor the bigger, BCS schools to dominate the airwaves and print publications because of losing records, coach dismissals and other scandals. When coach Mike London did the unspeakable and accepted the head coaching job at UVa (woof), I thought that we fans would not bounce back. But, our new coach, Latrell Scott, has instilled that national championship-winning confidence back into our loyal fans. Spider Nation has stayed faithful and now enjoys the success of the football program that will continue for seasons to come in our on-campus stadium.
And then, there is Spider basketball, both men and women's teams alike. I became a full-blown Spider basketball fan after I attended Spider basketball camp in the summer between second and third grade. There, I was introduced to current players who went to college to do what they loved best. I knew I wanted to play basketball at the college level at age 8. Sadly, lack of height and injury-filled setbacks deterred my dream, but now I am able to enjoy the sport on both the fan and former player level.
Coaches Chris Mooney and Michael Shafer have propelled the men's and women's programs to two consecutive post-season appearances. The Richmond men recorded its most decorated season ever, maybe y'all heard about it? The highlights: appearing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004 with a seven-seed, tying the school record with 28 wins and Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and Coach of the year honors for junior Kevin Anderson and Mooney all make up for the 8-22 season three years ago.
And then the women's team made it to the National Invitational Tournament for the second year in a row with an injury-riddled team. I am sure that with players like sophomore Abby Oliver and junior Brittani Shells back next year, the team will continue to build upon its success.
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Both programs produced not only substantial winning records but also postseason play. That is a lot better than how the UVa men's basketball program and Virginia Tech women's program fared this year, with both programs having records falling under .500. The Virginia Tech men made it to postseason play in the NIT, winning two games before losing to the University of Rhode Island, a team that Richmond beat.
I could not be happier about the teams' turnarounds since I have been here. College basketball season, to me, is like an extension of the exciting Christmas season for little kids, eager to see what kinds of surprises Santa Claus will bring them. This year, basketball Santa delivered big.
Well, I guess by now y'all have figured out that I love Spider sports. But I am not just a fan of the more-attended sports. After rooming with a field hockey player last year, I have kept up with the lesser-known sports around campus. When I was abroad last semester in Ireland, I faithfully kept track of how Richmond sports were doing, even getting a radio shout-out from announcer Bob Black on my birthday, which fell on the same day as the Richmond versus Villanova football game.
I know now, especially after this year's sporting success in football, men's and women's basketball, field hockey and many other Richmond programs, that I will be able to confidently own any dispute among my UVa and Virginia Tech friends if they try to discredit Richmond athletics. And I know that this time, I won't even have to try very hard at winning the argument because our school's sports records from the past few years speak for themselves. And to think that when I was a little kid sliding down that hill by the scoreboard of UR Stadium, completely unaware of the success of Spider sports to come, someday I would be Spider born and Spider bred. I just hope that I won't be Spider dead until I can enjoy Richmond sports for a long, loooong time.
Contact staff writer Amelia Volger at firstname.lastname@example.org
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