WINCHESTER, Va. - Shenandoah University was accepted into the Old Dominion Atlantic Conference in September 2010 and begins full membership in the league this coming summer.
This year, the department competes in the ODAC in field hockey, men's and women's indoor track & field and men's and women's outdoor track & field as it completes its run in both the USA South and Colonial States Athletic conferences.
The ODAC acceptance marked a historic moment for the department as the 14-team league is considered one of the top conferences in NCAA Division III.
Kim Iman-Bianchi, who led the field hockey team to a seventh-place finish in the ODAC this fall, experienced all of the firsts for SU in its new home.
Iman-Bianchi's club had the first competition, scored the first point, and thanks to a 4-0 shutout of Sweet Briar at the end of October, had the first ODAC victory.
Following the season, junior Amber VanHorn became the first SU student-athlete recognized by the league with her first team All-ODAC selection.
"We had already seen a lot of the teams that we had to play in the ODAC, so it wasn't anything too new for us," Iman-Bianchi said.
"The ODAC overall is definitely strong and competitive and I am excited and look forward to the next couple of years. It was a good experience for my team."
Except for indoor and outdoor track, the remaining SU athletic programs play their inital ODAC schedules beginning this coming fall.
This switch will be a significant change for the student-athletes. In addition to greatly reduced travel, the level of competition will be different.
"It is a great move for us as an athletic department," head women's lacrosse coach Lindsey Lutz said. "The ODAC always seems to have its top teams competing for national championships. We have that in some sports in the USA South, but the ODAC has it across the board.
"I know our student-athletes are going to appreciate having the league games much closer than they do now - this is going to make it better for everyone."
All except one ODAC school, Guilford College, is located within the Commonwealth of Virginia and the vast majority of the league is within a three-hour drive of Winchester. In the USA South, the closest co-educational school to Shenandoah is 210 miles away. In the ODAC, 10 of the other 13 schools are closer than 200 miles and five are within 150 miles.