The 1980s started off strong for Elizabethtown College athletics. The men’s soccer team made it to the Division III tournament under the direction of Coach Owen Wright from 1980-1982. In 1983, current coach Skip Roderick, ’74, became head coach and led the team to two MAC championships throughout the decade. The team earned a record 24 wins, which still stands as the program record for the highest number of wins in a single season.
Also in 1980, the wrestling team won its first MAC championship and three wrestlers were named All-Americans. Later that year, Becky Donecker became the first Etown tennis player to be named an All-American.
The 1981-1982 season was a big one for Etown’s women’s basketball team, during which they won the first women’s basketball Division III championship, hosted in their home gym. The women finished the season 26-1 with a record .962 win percentage. For the men, Steve Swope, ’87, broke the program record for highest career points, finishing with 1,926. He also became Etown’s first basketball All-American in 1987.
The track and field team had its last season in 1981, but, later that year, cross country was reintroduced to the program. For the first two seasons, there were not enough women to field a team to score in meets, but by 1983 there were enough runners to compete. Also in 1983, the baseball team competed in its first Division III tournament. The team went 22-16 that season, a record number of wins in a season at that time.
1986 was a big year for the College’s athletic program. The volleyball team made the Division III tournament for the first time in 1986. Dave Parry, ’86, was named Etown’s first and only All-American diver and the field hockey team set a program record for most wins in a single season, going 20-4-1. The following year, the team won their first MAC championship title. Etown’s softball team won back-to-back MAC championships in 1987 and 1988.
In the fall of 1988, women’s soccer officially became part of Etown’s athletic program led by Coach Jim Jones. Golf was reinstated in the spring of 1988 under the direction of Coach Greg Millen.
The success of Etown sports throughout the 1980s gave way to one of the most consistently successful Division III athletic programs going into the 1990s.