NAIA coaches pick three Brenau teams for nation’s top 5
Softball, tennis and swimming projected to repeat 2012 Top 10 performances
It’s not lonely at the top for some of Brenau University’s sports teams.
For the first time in school history, three of its sports programs have attained Top 5 national rankings at the same time.
The Golden Tigers tennis team is No. 3 in the 2013 NAIA (National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics) Women’s Tennis Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll. That’s the same ranking the Brenau softball team already held in the 2013 NAIA Softball Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll. And the swimming team, in the midst of the 2012-13 competitive season, garnered its first official ranking in the NAIA Women’s Swimming & Diving Coaches’ Poll, coming in at No. 5. The teams finished the 2012 season ranked in the national Top 10 – softball No. 4, tennis No. 6 and swimming No. 8.
For a school with only 10 sports programs – including track and field, which will race out of the blocks this spring, and golf, which will tee off in the fall – Brenau is showing that it is a force to be reckoned with across the board.
“We’re gaining ground and are as competitive as traditionally some of the best schools in the NAIA,” said Mike Lochstampfor, Brenau’s director of athletics. “It definitely puts us in a different light when we play our opponents. They’re all gunning for the Top 5.”
The softball poll was released in November, while the other two polls were announced Tuesday within hours of each other.
“We’d already known about our softball team, so it was a pleasant surprise to have swimming and then tennis piggyback on top of that,” Lochstampfor said.
The tennis team, coached by Andre Ferreira, was awarded 292 points, trailing only Auburn-Montgomery (Ala.) and Embry-Riddle (Fla.). Brenau is led by junior Dominika Jasova, who is ranked No. 4 in NAIA singles by the ITA. The season begins Jan. 21 for the Golden Tigers, the two-time former national champions who were No. 6 at the conclusion of play last year.
The Brenau softball team, coached by Devon Thomas to the national semifinals last season and a No. 4 ranking, collected two first-place nods and 496 total points to rank behind Cal State San Marcos and Lubbock Christian (Texas). The Tigers, coming off a 44-16 season, begin play on Feb. 8.
While tennis and softball have figured prominently on the national scene for years, swimming has made progress since Blaire Bachman took over the program in July 2010. The Golden Tigers finished eighth in the NAIA national championships last season.
The team received votes – although not enough for a ranking – in the first poll of the season, and is now behind only Oklahoma Baptist, SCAD Savannah and Cumberlands (Ky.).
“We’ve gradually been moving up,” Lochstampfor said. “Coach Bachman had been telling me, ‘This could be the week.’”
Concordia (Calif.) is the only other program with Top 5 rankings in those three sports, holding down No. 4 in swimming and No. 5 in both softball and tennis.
Brenau isn’t just a triple threat. The Golden Tigers’ cheerleading team, coached by Krista Britt, is also a national powerhouse. Sanctioned by the National Cheerleading Association instead of the NAIA, it ranked second last season and will begin its competitive slate in February.
“We’re eagerly anticipating another banner year,” Lochstampfor said.