Editor’s note: This is part three of a three-part series on the current and future state of the AU athletic program.
The expectations for AU student-athletes’ performances off the field may be higher than the expectations of student-athletes elsewhere, but for many of those athletes, what it means to be a Raven makes their commitment even more worthwhile. With increased opportunities to play a role in building a new program or taking an established one to the next level, there is a sense of honor amongst those who don the orange and black.
“I have a great deal of pride when I put on the orange and black,” said sophomore basketball player Wes Davidson. “There’s a great deal of history in the Anderson athletic program. One day I’ll be able to tell my grandkids that, like Jumpin’ Johnny Wilson before me, I was a Raven.”
The pride Davidson takes in being an AU student-athlete is evident throughout the men’s basketball team, one of the more recently successful athletic teams on campus. Playing in front of a raucous home crowd in historic O.C. Lewis gymnasium leaves the Ravens inspired to pick up a victory for their university.
Junior co-captain Cory Kreiger touched on the aura created when taking the court in O.C. Lewis. “It feels incredible to play in front of a packed house, knowing the students are there supporting us.” He cited the fan support in a recent victory over nationally ranked Mount St. Joseph as proof of the impact. “When the students are rowdy and loud like they were against Mount St. Joe’s, it takes our home court advantage to another level, genuinely impacting the game.”
Nick Butcher, a junior shortstop on the baseball team, raves about his time in an AU uniform. “Being an athlete here at AU has meant a lot to me. It’s much different than being an athlete at other schools.” He explained that the expectation of being a good person in addition to being a successful athlete has great meaning to him.
Butcher, who has already worked out for the Atlanta Braves ,has serious aspirations of playing pro ball after he completes his collegiate career. He touched on how AU has allowed him to chase this goal. “AU has been the sole reason I’ve been able to excel in my game. I was talented in high school, but without Coach Glant and this program, I would never have been able to develop my tools in this fashion.”
He continued, “This program has given me the confidence and drive to play at the next level. I can only attribute that to the work that Coach Glant and Coach Brantley have put into the program.”
He is also thrilled about the upcoming season and future seasons due to the recruiting success of Coach Glant. He explained that while the team will be young, they will be loaded with talent, talent that has been working relentlessly.
“There is no team in the nation that has outworked us,” Butcher said.
After racking up five consecutive conference championships, the softball team’s streak came to an end last season. Shelby Calvert, a senior centerfielder, said that being a part of two conference championship teams was “a pretty cool feeling,” and has given the team a great deal of confidence.
Last year’s disappointing finish has motivated the team to return to their championship winning ways. “We are putting last year behind us,” explained Calvert. “Our one goal still remains to win the conference championship. The teams across the HCAC are improving, but we are focusing on our team and what it will take to win the conference.”
Being a member of a team that has achieved great success and should continue to do so in the future has given Calvert an appreciation for what it means to be an Anderson softball player. “I’d like to say in the future that I helped continue the excellence here,” she said. “I hope my time here has helped the program grow to the level it should reach.”
While the baseball, men’s basketball and softball team have all earned recent success in conference and national tournaments, the sense of pride that comes with representing Anderson athletics is not limited to those three teams.
Carson Barteau, a junior on the swim team, talked about the thrill and excitement of helping to build a new team. “We are accomplishing so much as a new team,” he said. “It is awesome to know that what we are doing is laying down the foundation of expectation, traditions and work ethic for future teammates.”
The swim team is exceeding expectations for a first-year program. With the success that is being achieved, a winning culture is already being cultivated. This winning culture and desire is beginning to spread throughout the athletic program.
Butcher shared his excitement pertaining to the culture being created throughout the athletic program. “I think we are close to our desired level, but not there yet. There is still lots of hard work to be done, but I think we have great coaches across the various teams on campus that are really starting to push their athletes to the next level.”
As Anderson’s campus-wide realignment takes place, the athletic program, led by both programs with established traditions and history and those that are brand new to AU, continue to pursue President Pistole’s motto of “excellence in all things.” That excellence should be more easily attainable with the current crop of athletes that take pride in performing for their university. Both the near and far future are very bright for Anderson athletics.