May 20, 2013
RICHMOND, Va. – It’s been a spring of change for Cindy Chala. Since January, she’s forged ahead in a new country with a new culture. School has been different, the people are new and the tennis has been a revelation.
All that change has added up to a pretty successful debut for the VCU sophomore, who will compete in the NCAA Singles Championships this week. Play begins in the singles draw on Wednesday, May 22 at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in Urbana, Ill.
Chala, ranked 76th nationally by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), earned the Atlantic 10 Conference’s automatic bid for the field of 64. She’s the first VCU woman to earn a berth in the NCAA Singles Championships since Tatsiana Uvarova in 2006. Draws for the singles bracket will be released following the NCAA Team Championship on Tuesday evening. If Chala reaches the quarterfinals, as Uvarova did in 2006, she’ll earn All-America status.
It’s been a busy few months for the native of Versailles, France. Chala had been home schooled since she was 13 as she focused on her tennis career. But chronic back injuries led her rethink her options. As is the case for many European athletes, Chala eyed the unique opportunity provided by colleges in the United States to marry their academic and athletic pursuits.
The decision has paid off on both fronts for Chala, who is majoring in Business and Psychology, although she had to get used to the inside of a classroom again.
“It’s tough to stay focused,” she joked. “But I like it. The school is different here in the U.S. We have so many different classes, and I like it. It’s not like in France. You can touch on everything.”
She’s gotten acclimated on the tennis court quickly as well.
Chala finished 14-4 in singles play this spring for the VCU Women’s Tennis squad, which won the A-10 Championship. Chala’s losses have come to players currently ranked seventh, 12th, 53rd and 77th, respectively, by the ITA. Three of those four have qualified for the NCAA Singles Championships. Chala was named the A-10’s Most Outstanding Player, as well as the ITA’s Atlantic Region Player to Watch, awarded to student-athletes expected to contend for a regional crown in 2013-14.
She credits the work of the VCU training staff, as well as Rams’ Assistant Tennis Coach Yana Carollo with keeping her healthy this spring. She also says VCU’s schedule, which usually features one or two matches a week, is easier on her compact frame than the five or six matches a week she played in France.
“It’s been a long time [since] I’ve played a few months in a row without injury,” Chala said. “I didn’t think I’d play that much, so I’m very happy.”
Chala began playing tennis when she was six years old, but jokes that she was “clumsy” and that “nobody wanted to teach me because I was so bad”. But she’s not clumsy anymore. Although she says she’s battled back trouble since she was 13, Chala is healthy as she looks ahead to the NCAA Singles Championships. Like most things during her first year at VCU, from the food, to school, to the people, to the tennis, she says she’ll keep an open mind.
“We’ll see,” she says. “I don’t have expectations because it’s my first year, but hopefully I’ll do well.”
Fans can follow VCU’s Cindy Chala, as well as Rams’ senior Max Wennakoski in the men’s draw, at http://www.fightingillini.com/ncaatennis2013/.
May 16, 2013
VCU Baseball hosts Richmond at The Diamond for a three-game set to close the regular season. The series starts Thursday at 6 p.m., followed by an 11 a.m. contest on Friday and a 10:30 a.m. tilt on Saturday. The Rams (25-26) still have a mathematical shot at playing in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, so there’s more than just city bragging rights at stake.
May 14, 2013
RICHMOND, Va. – While senioritis crept in on her peers, Anett Farkas chose to finish her college career with style.
Farkas, a three-year volleyball standout for VCU, graduated Saturday with a degree in Fashion Merchandising, but not before she got a head start on her career. In January, Farkas and friend Carlos Funn, a professional photographer, founded the fashion blog FRSHSqueezed.com. Farkas writes and edits the blog, while Funn’s photography gives the site a refined visual edge.
When the curtain fell on Farkas’ volleyball career in November, she looked to occupy her time with new projects. When she returned from winter break this year, she and Funn launched FRSHSqueezed.
“The blog is a really good place to channel my energies,” Farkas, who calls her personal style sort of an American-European fusion, says. “I didn’t think it would be this much work, but it’s a lot of fun.”
Online, Farkas models some of her favorite styles, provides fashion tips and reports on local fashion fare. She does so while appealing to more than just a Richmond audience. A native of Budapest, Hungary, the site is written in both English and Hungarian, which Farkas hopes will invite readers from her native country.
“I thought it would be a good idea because I didn’t want the Hungarian aspect to be lost,” Farkas, 21, said. “I’m actually very excited that I’m building my Hungarian followers, and I’ve had quite a few likes on Facebook that are from Hungary and people that I don’t know, and that’s what gets me super excited.”
Although still in its infancy, Farkas and Funn have already seen modest success. Earlier this year, they struck a partnership with Dillard’s in Short Pump which allows Farkas to choose styles directly off the retailer’s floor and model them on FRSHSqueezed. Recently, Richmond, Virginia Fashion Bloggers (RVAFB, for short) featured FRSHSqueezed on their “Saturday Spotlight”, which casts a light on local fashion bloggers. FRSHSqueezed’s Facebook page has already accumulated nearly 3,000 “likes”.
Farkas also worked as a runway model for VCU Catalyst, a show featuring clothing by VCU Fashion Design and Merchandising students, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on May 5. Not only did Farkas model at the show, but she was able to report on it for FRSHSqueezed.
Now that she’s graduated, Farkas says she plans on investing herself in the site even further. There are a number of plans in the works, she says, and she and Funn hope to monetize the site in the near future.
“It’s definitely evolving,” Farkas, a two-year starter at outside hitter for the Rams, says, “But I’m excited that school’s ending because I can really dive into it.”
While it’s a labor of love for Farkas, she says there are other motivations for the blog. Farkas, who recently completed a marketing internship with Sue Williams and Colleagues in Church Hill, says she’d like to find a job in the fashion industry in the United States, and the blog could help her stand out. What better way to market yourself than with a successful blog that incorporates modeling, writing, marketing, fashion forecasting, social media saavy, smart aesthetics and a heap of initiative? It’s like a LinkedIn profile meets Vogue.
“I can kind of have that as a reference, [and say] ‘This is my thing, I built it from zero to here in this much time. I think I can do that for your company, and I do have ideas.’”
May 14, 2013
I can’t remember who said it, but a basketball coach once told me that he wanted assistant coaches on his staff that wanted to be head coaches someday. It’s a simple point, but an important one. It all goes back to drive and motivation and self-actualization, but in the end, everybody benefits.
You can also usually tell how successful a coach has been by the number of assistants who have become head coaches somewhere; guys who have theoretically developed under his leadership and become great leaders themselves. It also means you’re hiring great coaches to begin with, but you get the idea.
At a press conference in Tennessee Tuesday, Will Wade will be introduced as head coach at Chattanooga, the third Smart assistant to become a Division I head coach. He joins Mike Jones (Radford) and Jamion Christian (Mount St. Mary’s) on Smart’s “coaching tree”.
Jones and Christian each walked into rebuilding situations, as Wade will with the Mocs, and each has earned a measure of success in a short time. Mike Jones, about as good a guy as there is in coaching, took over a one-win debacle and has won six and 13 games, respectively, the during his two seasons. In the two years prior to Christian’s arrival in Emmitsburg, Md., The Mount won 19 games. Last year, his first at the helm, it won 18 and reached the NEC Championship Game.
I have no doubt that Wade will enjoy similar success. He’s about as good a basketball mind as I’ve met. A terrific recruiter, the guy literally lives to coach basketball. He’ll do fine. Wade will be missed, however. Even at 30, he’s probably forgotten more about hoops than I’ll know. I enjoyed the conversations I had with him following VCU’s Final Four run when we were putting together a commemorative Ram Report. He gave me great stuff, especially about the Rams’ unforgettable overtime win over Florida State. From the magazine:
I thought the most improbable of the wins was Florida State. I had the scout going into that game, and Coach Smart looked at me and said, ‘what are we going to do to beat them?’ I said, ‘it’s going to be tough.’
Florida State’s fourth, fifth and sixth post players would start on any team in our league. That’s no exaggeration. Their fifth and sixth post players would’ve started at center for us. I just thought their depth and the bodies, that was the one team that physically [was a problem]. It didn’t do me any better when I went and watched them during shootaround.
I thought Florida State was the toughest matchup. They’re so long, so big. They’re huge at every position, they have a 27-year-old guy in the post against D.J. [Haley]. The way they fly at the 3-point line I thought was going to give us problems. Our guys did a good job of making the extra pass. I thought it was a poor matchup for us.
– Will Wade (April, 2011)
I appreciated his candor. It really helped make the magazine memorable. I wish Will the best of luck. Like Mike Jones and Jamion Christian, he’s a terrific guy, easy to root for.
Moving forward, Smart will undoubtedly fill his staff with men he thinks will make great head coaches one day, and VCU will benefit, at the very least, in the short term. And everybody wins. The beat goes on…
P.S.: We will miss this suit combo most of all. Thanks to thegalen for the screen cap.
May 10, 2013
I’m assuming this is how VCU student-athletes will feel at graduation on Saturday. In fact, I want to see people spinning their way down sidewalks and gallivanting into Siegel Center.
May 9, 2013
RICHMOND, Va. – Troy Daniels made a career out of connecting on long shots. So what’s one more?
Daniels has been invited to an NBA workout May 22-23 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Representatives from all 30 NBA teams are expected to attend.
“It’s time to get a job now. This is a lot different than college,” Daniels said Thursday. “It’s a great feeling. “It’s something that you dream about when you’re younger and it’s finally coming true now.”
Despite his sharpshooting credentials – Daniels ranks second in school history in 3-pointers (251) and owns the top two single season marks – the senior from Roanoke, Va. likely faces an uphill battle. He’s currently not expected to be drafted and is not listed among the top 100 NBA prospects by NBADraftExpress.com, NBADraft.net or CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman.
But Daniels, who will graduate from VCU Saturday with a degree in criminal justice, says that won’t be a deterrent. He’s says he’s been working out twice a day, fine-tuning his skills and hopes to grab the attention of scouts and executives in Brooklyn. He’s also recently worked out with former Ram Eric Maynor of the Portland Trail Blazers, who typically spends much of his offseason in Richmond.
May 9, 2013
RICHMOND, Va. – The son of two part-time actors, VCU sophomore Heath Dwyer appears to have inherited a flair for the dramatic.
Dwyer, who nearly majored in theater at VCU, has played the part of a hero of late, delivering a handful of potentially season-saving performances. In his last three starts, the left-handed pitcher has thrown three complete games and is 2-1 with a 1.73 ERA.
He should’ve taken a bow after his last effort. On May 4 against first-place Saint Louis, Dwyer outdueled Alex Alemann, one of the Atlantic 10’s top pitchers, spinning a five-hit, 10-strikeout, complete-game shutout. The win helped the Rams take two of three from the Billikens and kept VCU’s A-10 Tournament hopes alive. Gutty and important as Dwyer’s gem was to VCU, especially for a sophomore, it did not catch Rams’ Coach Shawn Stiffler by surprise.
“I’ve never looked up and thought, this occasion is too big for him,” Stiffler said. “[He has] a maturity level of, you can drop him in New York with a quarter, and he can get home.”
May 8, 2013
The league trumpeted the addition of Davidson Wednesday for the 2014-15 season, just weeks after George Mason announced it would leave the CAA and would also join the A-10.
“Davidson is an ideal fit for the Atlantic 10 – as a nationally recognized academic Institution complimented by excellence in a broad-based athletic program — the Wildcats will be competitive immediately. Their success in men’s basketball is important, bringing another nationally recognized brand into the league,” A-10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade said Wednesday in a prepared release.
George Mason will become an A-10 member this summer, restoring a strong in-state rivalry with VCU. It also means the league will operate with 13 full members in 2013-14 and then – presumably – 14 in 2014-15.
In the short and long term, this is a boon for the Newport News, Va.-based Atlantic 10. The A-10 will lose four members this summer, Temple (All-American), Charlotte (Conference USA), Butler (Big East) and Xavier (Big East), but McGlade wasted little time shoring up the league.
From a men’s basketball perspective, which, realistically, is the driver in all this, the additions of George Mason and Davidson should be well-received. Given the landscape of college athletics these days, you could make a strong argument that these were the two most attractive and realistic targets for the A-10. Actually, that’s exactly the argument I’m making. The league adds two strong basketball programs with strong history in attractive TV markets; two schools which have each established themselves on the national scene at different points in the last eight years.
It would be impossible to completely replace programs like Xavier, Temple and Butler in a single year, but these are good moves nonetheless. If you count Davidson, seven of the A-10’s 14 schools finished in the top 100 in RPI last year.
Here’s a comparison of what the A-10 will gain the next two years to the schools that will depart (click to enlarge):