THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS EVER THIS WEEK

1 Comment

BASKETBALL BEGINS
Today, in accordance with new rules, VCU men’s hoops opens practice. The Rams will have 42 days in which to practice a maximum of 30 times. Set your 42-day countdown clocks. In the meantime, Coach Shaka Smart is talkin’ ’bout practice.

In that vein, if you can’t get excited by Shaka Smart Mud Face, then I can’t help you. Smart is literally willing to wade through the muck for his players. How can you not love a coach like that? Only Pat Kennedy’s sport coat is more willing to get down and dirty in the name college hoops.

Future marketing opportunity: "Tide, it wreaks havoc on tough stains."

Future marketing opportunity: “Tide, it wreaks havoc on tough stains.”

VOLLEYBALL, FROM THE FRYING PAN, INTO THE FLYERS
The 10-4 VCU Volleyball team kicks off Atlantic 10 play Friday at four-time defending league champion Dayton at 7 p.m. So much for easing into conference play. The Flyers were the coaches’ preseason pick again this year, but VCU has shown it’s not intimidated by a step up in competition. The Rams nearly upset No. 19 Kentucky and just-barely-unranked Wisconsin, and toppled Tennessee this season. The Rams have played an exciting brand of volleyball under first-year Head Coach Jody Rogers. Follow live scoring and audio at VCUAthletics.com.

SISTER, SISTER
VCU Field Hockey hosts Siena at 4 p.m. at Cary Street Field. Come for the fresh air and the smell of fresh cut turf, stay for the heartwarming sister reunion. VCU freshman defender Sydney Weise will share the field with older sister Callie, a junior midfielder for the Saints. The Weise’s hail from Freehold, N.J.

THE FURY IS RIGHT, ON SCHEDULE
The VCU Women’s Basketball team, which has adopted the slogan “Fear the Fury” this season, will travel to Ohio State for a second straight season, it revealed with Thursday’s schedule release. The Rams, who return A-10 leading scorer Robyn Parks and welcome a stacked recruiting class, will open at Youngstown State on Nov. 9 and also meet Richmond and Old Dominion as part of a competitive slate.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
In case you missed it, former Ram Jason Johnson scored this fancy futbol goal earlier this week for the Houston Dynamo.

THE BIG BOUNCE; RAMS REBOUND WITH APLOMB

Leave a comment

A season-opening loss to UAB has helped spur the Rams into the top 10.

A season-opening loss to UAB has helped spur the Rams into the top 10.

RICHMOND, Va. – While the 4-0 score is somewhat misleading, there’s no doubt VCU’s season-opening loss to UAB at Sports Backers Stadium on Aug. 30 was a bit of a gut punch to a team with high expectations.

But since that ego-bruising debut, the Rams (3-1-1) have been splendid. VCU followed with a draw with No. 9 New Mexico, then went on the road to topple a 13th-ranked Maryland squad, seventh-ranked Akron and Niagara, an NCAA Tournament team a year ago. This week, the Rams rocketed up the NSCAA Top 25 Poll to No. 8, the school’s highest since 2004.

In some ways, the Rams say, that disappointing loss to a solid UAB team, like a bucket of cold water to the face, was a wake-up call.

“I think that game was the best thing that happened to us this season,” says forward Devon Fisher. “It was a big eye-opener for our defense.”

Although the Rams outshot UAB 12-8 and had 15 corners to the Blazers’ two, VCU couldn’t crack the scoreboard and couldn’t get enough stops defensively. What followed was a week’s worth of defensive drills and instruction that appears to have shored up the Rams’ early deficiencies. The Rams have allowed just three goals in the last four games and posted back-to-back 1-0 shutouts last weekend at Akron and against Niagara.

More

THE YEAR IN VCU ATHLETICS, FROM A TO Z

Leave a comment

Wrong A-B-C...whatever, close enough.

Wrong A-B-C…whatever, close enough.

June marks the conclusion of the college athletics calendar, and July’s arrival effectively signals the beginning of the 2013-14 season, at least for those of us in the biz, anyway. It all makes this week a good time to reflect back on the year that was in VCU Athletics.

A – is for Atlantic 10 Conference, in which, according to our slogan, the Rams were ‘all-in’. We were also all-in for another season of “Arrested Development” and Pop Tart ice cream sandwiches, so we’re having a good year. VCU competed in the A-10 for the first time in 2012-13, a move that has elevated the program’s national profile. The Rams’ first A-10 title came via the women’s tennis squad, followed by a men’s tennis crown days later. Meanwhile, several other sports (men’s basketball, women’s soccer, men’s soccer) reached the league’s championship final.

B – is for the Ball family, one of the driving forces behind the VCU Golf program. They’re like the Kennedy’s of VCU Golf, but with a better short game. Matt Ball may have just completed his 14th season with the Rams, but this one was surely different than the others. That’s because 40 percent of his starting lineup was occupied by sons Adam and Matt Jr. Son Adam, a freshman, led the Rams in scoring average (73.53) this year, while Matt Jr., a junior, placed seventh at the A-10 Championship and was named to the league’s All-Academic Team.

C – is for Courtney Conrad, the alliteratively named star of the women’s soccer team. Conrad led the Rams with 11 goals, including five game-winners, and received All-Mid-Atlantic by the NSCAA.

D – is for Daniels, Troy. If you are a fan of basketball players who score three points at a time (and the signed, obscure Mark Price picture in my dining room proves I am), then you would’ve enjoyed Daniels’ 2012-13 season. In 36 games, Daniels bombed a school-record 124 three-pointers, including games of 11, nine and eight.

More

JOHNSON READY TO LAUNCH MLS CAREER

Leave a comment

VCU's Jason Johnson has signed an MLS Generation Adidas contract and awaits Thursday's league draft.

VCU’s Jason Johnson has signed an MLS Generation Adidas contract and awaits Thursday’s league draft.

Editor’s note: Jason Johnson was selected 13th overall by the Houston Dynamo at the Jan. 17 MLS SuperDraft in Indianapolis.

It wasn’t until the eighth grade that VCU’s Jason Johnson first played in an organized soccer game, years after many of his peers. But his career got off to an auspicious start – Johnson scored a goal in that contest. He hasn’t slowed down since.

Earlier this month, Johnson inked his first professional contract with Major League Soccer as part of its Generation Adidas program. Generation Adidas seeks to identify and retain the best college soccer talent in the United States. Players are offered guaranteed multi-year contracts with the league and do not count against a team’s budget or roster limits. Players in the program also receive educational stipends to finish their degrees.

On Jan. 17, Johnson is expected to be one of the top selections in the MLS SuperDraft in Indianapolis. Johnson will be the first VCU Soccer player drafted since Dominic Oduro was a second round pick of FC Dallas in 2006. Some rate Johnson as the top forward in this year’s draft. He scored 13 goals this season and a total of 28 in three seasons with the Rams.

“He’s got a unique combination of size, power, strength, speed; his technique is good,” said VCU Soccer coach Dave Giffard. “He strikes the ball well with both feet. He can play in combination. He’s good in the air. I think those qualities together are, they’re not super, super unique, but you don’t see them everywhere. There certainly aren’t many guys in college that have all those qualities.”

More

ACCORDING TO PLAN: THE REBIRTH OF VCU SOCCER

1 Comment

Coach Dave Giffard, 31-17-11 in three years at VCU, directed the Rams back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004 this season.

RICHMOND, Va. – There were some people who scoffed at the notion presented by Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin this summer, that VCU can win a national championship. But Men’s Soccer Coach Dave Giffard has always operated with that understanding. He talks about winning a national title so naturally in conversation that it doesn’t seem like a matter of if VCU can win one, but rather when.

Giffard was an assistant coach for Akron in 2009 when it reached the College Cup Final against Virginia, and has matter-of-factly approached his job at VCU the last three years a continuous chase for a national title.

On Sunday, he’ll get his first legitimate crack at fulfilling that goal when VCU (12-3-5), the No. 14 overall seed, takes on Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA College Cup at Sports Backers Stadium at 7 p.m. The match will mark the Rams’ first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004, when they reached the Elite Eight.

“When it was announced, it was a little bit emotional,” Giffard said. “This group of players has never been there. They’ve never been through that. Even for our staff, our group’s been through an awful lot.”

But the team that will meet Syracuse Friday is much different one than Giffard presided over when he arrived after the 2009 season. VCU, once a nationally recognized power, sank to 5-10-2 in 2009 and finished the year 161st in RPI. From 2005-09, VCU advanced to the conference tournament semifinals just once.

More

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

Leave a comment

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.

More

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,634 other followers

%d bloggers like this: