ARAGAO ‘ALL SET’ AGAIN FOR VCU

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Senior setter Cecilia Aragao has returned from a torn ACL to lead VCU this season.

Senior setter Cecilia Aragao has returned from a torn ACL to lead VCU this season.

RICHMOND, Va. – There is little evidence left of the torn ACL that derailed VCU Volleyball setter Cecilia Aragao’s junior season, other than the big, bulky, black knee brace, that is.

While the brace is hard to miss, Aragao doesn’t look much different from the player that was midway through one of the best seasons by a VCU setter before it came undone in an instant. That’s good news for VCU, which needs Aragao’s smooth playmaking skills more than ever this season.

Aragao, a senior and four-year starter from Recife, Brazil has reestablished herself as one of the best setters in the Atlantic 10 and perhaps the East Coast with her play during the first half of this season.

It’s not just Aragao’s ability to direct Rogers’ quick-set offense that places her among the best at her position. It’s that Aragao can impact nearly every facet of the match. While she’s compiled more than 3,500 assists during her career, Aragao is the first VCU setter to record more than 300 blocks. She’s also booked more than 300 kills and 800 digs.

Behind Aragao, one of just two seniors on this year’s squad, the Rams (10-9, 3-2 A-10) have won eight of 10 matches and find themselves in a position to contend for an A-10 title. But it wasn’t long ago that she wondered if she’d be able to command an offense again.

OVER IN AN INSTANT
On Oct. 2, 2013, Aragao suffered her season-ending ACL tear in a match against Hampton. While she was giving chase to a loose ball, Aragao rolled her ankle and then her knee. In 12 years of competitive volleyball, she’d says she’d never suffered a major injury. She knew immediately this time was different.

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COME TOGETHER; RAMS AIM TO CHALLENGE A-10 AGAIN WITH OLD AND NEW

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Year One of Jody Rogers’ tenure as VCU Volleyball coach was wildly successful, as the Rams finished 26-8 and reached the Atlantic 10 Conference title match. But that’s not to say the Rams are satisfied. VCU is still chasing its first conference crown and NCAA bid since 2005, and this year, the Rams will do it behind five returning starters and eight freshmen.

SPEED KILLS; KRISKOVA PILES UP POINTS

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Playing in VCU's new, faster-paced offense, sophomore Romana Kriskova has thrived.

Playing in VCU’s new, faster-paced offense, sophomore Romana Kriskova has thrived.

RICHMOND, Va. – VCU Volleyball Coach Jody Rogers talks fast and runs her offense even faster. But in short order, she’s winning players over with both.

Count sophomore outside hitter Romana Kriskova among the converts. The athletic, 6-foot-3 Kriskova is averaging 4.86 kills per set this season, which ranks seventh nationally, and is hitting .284. At this pace, Kriskova is mounting a serious challenge to Ludmila Francescatto’s school records of 4.46 kills per set and 549 total kills, set in 2006. Behind its offensive hammer, VCU is off to a 10-4 start as Atlantic 10 Conference play looms.

Kriskova was already a good player. She averaged 2.39 kills per set and was named to the A-10’s All-Rookie Team as a freshman, but this year, she’s been on another level.

The Rams’ new offensive direction appears to be serving Kriskova well, but the Bratislava, Slovakia native’s breakout season hasn’t come without trepidation. Kriskova changed positions this summer, from right side hitter to outside hitter, and is playing in a system unlike any other in her volleyball career. Kriskova had been accustomed to offenses popular in Europe and much of NCAA volleyball that use high-arching sets.

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