Reinford finds comfort in familiar place

Submitted photo
University of Rio Grande’s Spencer Reinford (12) discovered the dream school wasn’t for him only to return to playing soccer for Rio in hopes of chasing a national championship.

RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Much like the Juniata County countryside where he spent his youth honing his craft, Spencer Reinford’s soccer career has been filled with peaks and valleys.

When last he left the East Juniata High School product, Reinford had just polished off the 2015 NAIA national championship trophy for the University of Rio (pronounced Rye-o) Grande and packed his bags bound for Division I Coastal Carolina University.

Located in Conway, S.C., near Myrtle Beach, the Chanticleers sport a rich soccer tradition. Coastal was in the top 10 rankings for the better part of the 2015 season.

A year later, Reinford discovered his dream school wasn’t for him and he found himself back on a familiar pitch at Rio this season.

“The school, in general, I loved,” Reinford said of his transfer to Coastal Carolina. “It was amazing, but the team’s style of play didn’t suit me. I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted, and when I was playing, I wasn’t playing like I should.”

While Reinford had earned a spot on Coastal’s spring roster, his play in the spring determined his scholarship allotment in the fall 2016.

“Coastal Carolina was my dream school to start out with,” he said. “After we won nationals at Rio Grande, I thought about it and we talked about it.”

After playing in nine games, all of which he came off the bench, and logging five shots, Reinford decided to hang up his cleats.

“This just wasn’t the school for me,” he explains. “A week later, (Rio) coach (Scott Morrissey) heard what happened and he wanted to know if I wanted to keep playing. He gave me a week to think about it. It almost felt like I was burned out at Coastal, so I questioned whether I wanted to go back to Rio.

“I wanted to be part of another national championship, so I went back,” Reinford said.

In the year Reinford was away from Rio, the RedStorm put together a 21-2-2 campaign and ended up as the NAIA national runners-up. With Reinford back in the fold in 2017, Rio was the consensus favorite in the River States Conference preseason coaches’ poll.

The RedStorm cruised through a 14-1-1 regular season, conference crown and a No. 3 national ranking. Reinford started 10 of 18 games and notched 10 goals, including a pair of game-winners.

The postseason was a different story as Rio was bounced from the RSC playoffs by West Virginia University Tech in penalty kicks and upset by Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) in its NAIA tournament opener.

Despite the disappointing ending, Reinford rekindled his love of the game.

“I was definitely happy this year playing soccer,” he says. “I’m a senior (academically) this year, but only a junior on the field, so I can go back and be a fifth-year senior if I choose. We were a top-five team for the entire season. Sometimes it’s not your day. We should have went on.”

There’s plenty of optimism for the RedStorm next season.

“This (NAIA playoff) loss is driving my decision,” Reinford says. “I don’t want that to be my last memory.”

Reinford, a former member of the Philadelphia Union Academy’s Under-18 team in 2013-14, isn’t sure what he future holds.

“The Academy is always watching,” he adds. “At one point, I was second on the team in scoring, and if I’d kept going at that pace, I would have done really well. Anything can happen. It’s always been a dream of mine (to play professional soccer). If I got a chance I would take it in a heartbeat.”

The only certainty is that Reinford will graduate from Rio with his degree in communications.