HERE’S THE (POSTSEASON) SITUATION…

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VCU’s last fall sports conference championship came in volleyball in 2005. The Rams have four chances to end that drought this fall.

VCU sports are enjoying a record-breaking fall, and for the first time since 2000, field hockey, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball will all play in the conference tournament in the same year. A couple of them have legitimate NCAA at-large shots as well. Here’s a quick look at the postseason prospects of VCU’s fall athletic programs.

FIELD HOCKEY (13-5, 4-3 A-10)
Remaining Schedule:
Regular season complete
Atlantic 10 Tournament: The Rams are the No. 4 seed and will meet top-seeded Richmond in the semifinals on Friday, Nov. 2 at 11 a.m. in Amherst, Mass. Click HERE for the A-10 Championship page.
Conference Championships: None
NCAA Appearances: None
Current NCAA RPI: 30
The Skinny: If this were hoops, VCU’s 30 RPI would be a sure ticket to the NCAA Tournament. However, the NCAA Field Hockey Championship is 16 teams, which means the Rams need to win the A-10 Tournament to dance. It won’t be an easy task. The Rams are 0-3 against the A-10 Tourney field (Richmond, Temple and UMASS) this season.

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MEN’S SOCCER ROLLS ON

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This is a little late, but great job by VCU Men’s Soccer Friday. The Rams (10-2-4, 6-1-1 A-10) thumped 12th-ranked Xavier 4-1 and have now vaulted into first place in the Atlantic 10 Conference. VCU will try to lock up the No. 1 seed for the A-10 Tournament Friday at Richmond. It’s not that far, come out and cheer the Rams to a win.

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I’ve got to imagine the Rams are ranked again when the NSCAA Coaches Poll comes out later Tuesday. In addition, VCU is making a serious run at an at-large bid to NCAA Tournament. The Rams were 28th in RPI before their win over Xavier, who was 25th, so they’ll get another nice bump.  Hard as it may be to believe, VCU has not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 2004, when it staged a dramatic run to the quarterfinals.

Here’s a quick look at the top of the A-10 race. Note that the Rams own a head-to-head win over Charlotte earlier this season.

Conference  Overall
W L T Pts. W L T Pts.
Charlotte 6 1 1 19 12 2 3 39
VCU 6 1 1 19 10 2 4 34
Saint Louis 6 2 0 18 12 4 0 36
Temple 5 1 2 17 9 5 3 30

FALL SPORTS, SUMMED UP IN ONE PLAY

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It was another banner weekend in VCU Athletics. Fall sports were unbeaten (again). Volleyball and field hockey swept a pair of matches, women’s soccer beat Richmond, men’s soccer picked up a draw and a win. Nice, tidy 6-0-1 weekend. Heck, for good measure, 17-year-old freshman Jake McNulty fired a 69 in the first round of the OBX/ODU Collegiate Sunday morning for the VCU Golf team.

VCU fall sports (volleyball, field hockey, men’s soccer, women’s soccer) have a combined record of 50-14-7. If the regular season ended today, all four would qualify for their respective conference tournaments for the first time since 2000.

Below is a great example of how we roll at VCU. Redshirt freshman Uzoamaka Ibeh is a great kid from Jersey. Works hard. Great teammate. But she hasn’t played much as a Ram. Saturday’s match with Duquesne marked the seventh appearance of her career. That didn’t stop her from diving headlong into the scorer’s table to make this save. I was practically on top of the play and it was much better in person. All hustle.

ALL YOUR LINKS IN A PILLOWCASE

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If you don’t roll like this on Halloween, you’re doing it wrong.

Much like the day you discovered that you could get 280 percent more candy in the pillowcase from your bed than that dopey plastic jack-o-lantern they hand out to everyone, it’s best to get all your links in one place. Here’s a collection of VCUish links from the last week.

YOU LIKE ME, YOU REALLY, REALLY LIKE ME
Men’s hoops is feeling the love from the media right now. Last week alone, the Rams were picked as a preseason top-25 squad by three different major outlets.

VCU Skips Midnight Madness Fanfare, gets down to business (SI.com).

CBS’ Matt Norlander Writes:
“VCU has become one of those teams. Those “small” teams that everyone knows and instinctively roots for. But this isn’t really a small team and it’s not in a small conference. It’s move to the A10 signifies a shift that puts the league on the same plane as the other major conferences.”

In addition, two CBS pundits have picked the Rams to win the A-10 title.

At NBC Sports, Rob Dauster gushes:
“It’s almost impossible to underrate VCU at this point.”

The Sporting News is on board as well. Scott Smith says:
“there’s no reason this team shouldn’t immediately contend for the A-10 title in its first year in the league.”

Put this one in the research category. ESPN’s Andy Katz broke down and rated the non-conference schedules of every A-10 team.

Meanwhile, VCU alum Larry Sanders is getting ready for his third season with the Milwaukee Bucks. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel weighs Sanders’ chances for a breakout this season.

FOR THE ENDURANCE SET
Congratulations to former VCU All-American Bruce Berger, who competed at the Ironman World Championship this weekend in Kona, Hawaii. The 40-year-old Berger placed 589th overall out of 1982 competitors. He completed the 140-mile gauntlet of biking, swimming and running in 10 hours, 24 minutes and 42 seconds. Here’s our profile on Berger from last month. Official results are available here. The sicko guy that won finished in a little more than eight hours.

PUB ON THE PITCH
VCU Men’s Soccer jumped into the top 25 last week. Here’s Coach Dave Giffard chatting with ESPN 950’s Greg Burton on “Hardly Workin'”.

COULD DEFEAT OF CHARLOTTE BE TURNING POINT FOR VCU?

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VCU’s 4-1 win over 2011 National Runner-Up Charlotte Friday is sure to turn a few heads.

RICHMOND, Va. – Shortly after his team celebrated on the pitch in one cheering, chanting, dancing huddled mass, flanked on one side by the VCU Pep Band, horns blaring, and a crowd of students on the other, VCU Soccer Coach Dave Giffard aimed to be a voice of reason.

“It’s a good win and a good result for us,” the Rams’ third-year coach said flatly. “I think what it means to the team is we won the first game in the conference.”

Given the decisiveness VCU’s 4-1 victory Friday night over 13th-ranked Charlotte, the National Runner-Up in 2011, and the emotion that spilled onto the field following the match, could this triumph possibly be distilled into the “just another conference win” category? Charlotte (6-2-2, 0-1 A-10) had lost just once this season and returned the bulk of its College Cup squad from 2011.

Four different players scored goals for the Rams (5-1-3, 1-0 A-10), who attacked the lower third of the field efficiently and aggressively. In the process, VCU earned its first win over a ranked team since 2006 and dealt Charlotte its worst loss in three years.

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THE WRAP: SEPT. 11 – EVERYBODY’S A WINNER AT O’SHEA’S!

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R.I.P. O’Shea’s.

I had a flashback this weekend, as VCU teams were barreling through their schedules and piling up victories.

It was the summer of 2003, and I was in Las Vegas for my college roommate’s bachelor party. By 4 a.m. of the first night (because Vegas deserves a minimum of two nights, even if it kills you) we five remaining souls, including four of us who had flown cross-country that morning, found ourselves at the gritty Las Vegas Strip outpost O’Shea’s, an Irish-themed casino whose dingy carpets and worn felt underscored years of neglect.

In recent years, O’Shea’s adopted a debauched college frat-house approach, complete with loud music, cheap brew and scores of beer pong tables, a strategy that, while kitschy, earned the place a rowdy reputation and passionate following that regularly packed the house. [Note: O’Shea’s closed this summer to make way for a new, glitzy property.]

This was not that O’Shea’s.

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THE WRAP: SEPT. 4

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Senior Kelsey Scherrer became the leading goal-scorer in VCU history in Sunday’s win over Columbia.

FIELD HOCKEY (2-0; 1-0 last week)
Scherr Shot
THE story of the weekend was me, successfully cooking an unburned meal for my wife on her birthday. The SECOND biggest story of the weekend was senior Kelsey Scherrer scoring the 39th goal of her career – a game-winner – in VCU’s 2-1 win over Columbia. Scherrer, who has two goals in as many games this season, passes Alycia Yoder, who racked up 38 goals from 1991-94.

“I foam at the mouth when I get in the circle with the ball,” Scherrer said, rather colorfully, of her nose for the goal.

Opening act
With Sunday’s victory, VCU is 2-0 to start the year for the first time since 2009.

See ya when I see ya
Following a pair of victories at Cary Street Field, the Rams will hit the road for the next six matches. Only the Grateful Dead have been on the road longer.

Ram-blings
“We are playing…this is a phenomenal year. We play as a team, as a unit on the field. We come off the field and we’re not as tired as we have been [in the past] because we’re playing as a unit. We’re connecting, we’re finishing. We’re doing the things we practice. We’re doing better every game. This has been the best game we’ve played so far and it can only get better.” – Kelsey Scherrer on VCU’s 2-0 start

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THE WRAP: AUG. 27, 2012

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VCU Volleyball captured its first tournament victory since 2009 at the Ball State Active Ankle Challenge.

Wrapping up the weekend in VCU Athletics, but not with an actual rap, because that would be awkward.

VOLLEYBALL (3-0)
Last week: at Ball State Active Ankle Challenge (Muncie, Ind.)

8/24: Def. Illinois State 3-1
8/25: Def. Ball State 3-1
8/25: Def. Gardner-Webb 3-1

Love the trophy, but what in the world is an active ankle?
VCU swept three matches over the weekend to win the Active Ankle Challenge at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. It marks VCU first 3-0 start since opening at 5-0 in 2009, as well as the program’s first tournament victory since that season.

It matters because…
The Rams win over Ball State could prove important down the road, and not just in case they meet BSU-alum Dave Letterman in an airport. The Cardinals were 25-8 a year ago and 36 in the RPI. If Ball State is anywhere near as good this season, it would constitute one of the biggest, if not the biggest, road win for the Rams in decades.

Networking
VCU middle blockers Jasmine Waters and Martina Samadan, a freshman, led the way. Waters, a fifth-year senior, hit .522 and averaged 1.00 blocks on the way to Most Valuable Player honors. Samadan averaged a staggering 1.92 blocks per set and was named All-Tournament, as well as Atlantic 10 Co-Defensive Player of the Week. Sophomore libero Amanda Love also picked up an All-Tourney citation.

Put it in quotations
“Getting a win like this after we beat Illinois State yesterday was great. The thing is, when the selection committee is trying to decide on an at-large, you need these kind of big wins. To get one opening weekend is fantastic.” – Head Coach James Finley following VCU’s win over Ball State.

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SCHERRER NEARS RECORD, FALL SPORTS IN FULL SWING

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Field hockey senior Kelsey Scherrer is closing in on history, and tonight may be the night.

Scherrer enters Friday’s season opener with Missouri State (Cary Street Field, 4 p.m.) with 37 career goals, one fewer than Alycia Yoder, who piled up 38 between 1991-94. Scherrer has scored 11, 15 and 11 goals, respectively, the last three seasons. A year ago, Missouri State allowed 3.4 goals per game, including 10 against Iowa.

If she gets the record, you can wave your official VCU Field Hockey tank top over your head like a hankie in that “North Carolina” song, or whatever it was. We’re giving them away to the first 100 students tonight.

The good thing about Friday’s VCU schedule is that you can double dip. The VCU Men’s Soccer team will open the regular season at 7:30 p.m. at Sports Backers Stadium against Bucknell in the aptly-named VCU/Nike Classic.

This will be the first regular season game for the Rams since the tragic loss of teammate Yoram Mwila this summer. Come out and support the Rams and give a nod to “Yo-Yo”, as Mwila was affectionately known. I’m sure he’s watching from somewhere.

Meanwhile, volleyball and women’s soccer will also be in action tonight in road contests in Indiana and Tennessee, respectively.

YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND (OF THE LAST 17 YEARS…)

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With VCU’s decision to bolt the Colonial Athletic Association still fresh in our minds, maybe now is a good time to take stock of the 17 years the Rams spent in the league. It was a good run and frankly, the CAA’s Virginia-centric appeal was one of the things that made it fun for VCU fans. I can honestly say it’s one of the things I’ll miss, times change.

VCU has won 42 CAA championships since joining the league for the 1994-95 season. The Rams’ 36 titles in men’s sports are the most in league history. The VCU Baseball team will have a chance to add to that mark later this month. The Rams have won 13 championships in men’s tennis, eight in golf and five each in men’s basketball and baseball. Other sports were not as fortunate, but still enjoyed a great deal of success. Here, I’m going to look at the best team from each VCU program of the CAA era.

BASEBALL: 2003 (46-13, 17-3 CAA, CAA Champions, 1-2 NCAAs)
This was a legitimately hard decision. You could make compelling arguments for the 1998 and 2001 teams. This is one of the few picks that required some back-and-forth debate.

But for me, the 2003 squad was a shade better. Not only did they dominate the CAA regular season and sweep the conference tournament, but the Rams also led the country in ERA that season (2.54). Four pitchers, Cla Meredth (6th), Justin Orenduff (1st), Sean Marshall 6th) and Brian Marshall (5th), were selected in the first six rounds of the MLB Draft.  Four other players were also eventually drafted. Sean Marshall and Cla Meredith played in the majors.

MEN’S BASKETBALL: 2010-11 (28-12, 12-6 CAA, NCAA Final Four)
While I’m picking a non-CAA champion here, I doubt I’ll get few arguments. VCU’s run to the Final Four in 2011 pretty much trumps everything. During the regular season the Rams were equally magnificent and maddening, but flipped a switch in March. VCU reached the CAA Championship Game, upsetting ranked and heavily-favored George Mason in the process. Despite losing to Old Dominion in the title bout, VCU received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, where the Rams toppled USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas on the way to history.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: 2008-09 (26-7, 15-3 CAA, NCAA First Round)
The Rams didn’t win the CAA crown this season (Drexel did), but behind eventual WNBA first round pick Quanitra Hollingsworth, the Rams earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time via an at-large berth. The Rams met Rutgers in the first round and gave the Scarlet Knights a run for their money. In addition to Hollingsworth, future All-American and WNBA Draftee Courtney Hurt was a freshman on this squad.

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