CARDEN LEADS VCU ON, OFF FIELD

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Senior goalkeeper Kristin Carden has helped VCU record shutouts in four of the Rams’ last five matches.

By Mike Schuster

For Kristin Carden, soccer is much more than a game. It’s her entire identity. Hooting and hollering from the sidelines during the spring and summer practices earlier this year, onlookers might have assumed she was a coach, not the starting goalkeeper.

Carden was forced to sit out during much of summer conditioning this year after an ankle injury confined her to a walking boot. However, instead of hanging her head, she seized the opportunity to serve as a mentor and solidify her role as the team’s go-to leader on the bench. Her vocal presence is hard to overlook, and her work ethic has drawn high praise from the VCU coaching staff. Carden’s on-field contributions are critical, but they’re only one piece of the puzzle. She also sees it as her responsibility to encourage her teammates and keep them focused.

“I think one of her best qualities is just having a presence,” said Women’s Soccer Co-Head Coach Tiffany Sahaydak. “Not only her size and her unique ability, but she cares a lot about this program, and her teammates around her really know that and embrace her for that. The younger ones look at her, being a fifth-year senior, and with how competitive she is, and her strong vocal presence, as someone they can look to for advice and inspiration both on and off the field,”

Carden began her career at Virginia Tech, where she racked up the second-most wins in school history during the 2008 and 2009 campaigns. She transferred to VCU in 2011 and has been nothing short of spectacular during her tenure in Richmond.

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SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF

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Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak found inspiration in the book, Soup, by Jon Gordon

On the morning of Oct. 23, Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak received a text message from one of her soccer players, Kristin Carden. The Rams were hours from their biggest match of the season, a contest against 18th-ranked and once-beaten William & Mary, and the senior goalkeeper had a point to make.

Carden had been inspired by a YouTube video called “212: The Extra Degree”. The decidedly low-tech video begins by stating that at 211 degrees, water is hot, but at 212 degrees it boils. It continues, “And with boiling water comes steam. And steam can power a locomotive.” Similar motivational anecdotes follow, but the message remains the same: The margin of victory can be minute, so a little extra effort can be the difference between winning and losing. It’s all in the details.

Carden received permission to play the video for the team prior to the game, and the Rams responded by stunning the Tribe 1-0 to vault into second place in the Colonial Athletic Association. The win also clinched a CAA Tournament berth, VCU’s first since 2007, and punctuated the Rams’ dramatic turnaround.

The Rams are 7-7-4 as they head into Friday’s Senior Day contest with James Madison at SportsBackers Stadium and are unbeaten in eight-matches. VCU’s last loss was a 1-0 defeat at Hofstra on Sept. 25. They’ve managed to string together so much success by stressing the details. They’re sweating the small stuff, if you will. Now, for the first time in years, the Rams are a contender for the CAA crown.

“Almost every game we’ve played this year, the margin of victory was so small, a lot of times it comes down to mentality,” says Roberts Sahaydak’s husband and co-head coach, Tim Sahaydak. “I can recall games that we won and lost this year that have come down to the closing minutes of the game and it’s come down to effort and perseverance more than individual technical ability or a tactical understanding of the game.”

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