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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DAWKINS LENDS EXPERIENCE, FAMILIARITY TO VCU CAUSE

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Niki Dawkins (right), a longtime friend and colleague of VCU Coach Marlene Stollings, will serve as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Rams.

By Michael Schuster

As first year VCU Women’s Basketball Head Coach Marlene Stollings familiarizes herself with a new school, team and city, she can take solace in the knowledge that there will be one familiar face on the bench in assistant Niki Dawkins.

For eight seasons, Dawkins served as a top assistant under renowned Old Dominion Coach Wendy Larry. While Dawkins’ was a member of ODU’s coaching staff the Lady Monarchs were a dominant force in the Colonial Athletic Association, posting a 158-67 record, including 105-21 in league play.

Dawkins helped ODU to four CAA Tournament titles and a 2008 Sweet 16 appearance, and she hopes to bring that same winning mentality with her to VCU, which finished 19-15 last season. Dawkins has coached five WNBA players, 15 All-CAA honorees, five CAA All-Defensive Team selections and has been outstanding on the recruiting trail, signing some of the nation’s best.

As top assistant and recruiting coordinator for the Rams, Dawkins’ nose for talent will be valuable for VCU as it moves into the nationally-recognized Atlantic 10 Conference. High character, the athleticism to run the floor and an ability to score the basketball will be some of the most important qualities Dawkins will look for in recruiting.

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AND THE BAND PLAYED ON…

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Rebecca Morrissette (left) had to give up her athletic dreams, but now blends music and basketball as a member of the VCU Pep Band.

By Michael Schuster

Below the surface of Rebecca Morrissette’s charming, albeit reserved, persona, there’s sincerity and courage. Her modesty and desire to succeed is enviable, but it’s her strength that has guided her inspirational tale through adversity.

When she was getting ready for high school, Morrissette, a junior forensics major at VCU, began noticing a sharp pain in her knees that forced her to seek orthopedic assistance. On the verge of trying out for her high school basketball team in Chester, Va., she and her family sought the medical attention of one of the best orthopedic doctors in Virginia.

Morrissette was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter disease, which causes inflammation, pain, and swelling of the bone and cartilage of the shin. X-rays also revealed a patellar dislocation of her knee, a condition in which the patella is unable to support ligaments and tendons surrounding the knee, and causes extreme discomfort. Although these injuries are not uncommon for female athletes, the orthopedic surgeon recommended an invasive surgical procedure to repair the knees with screws and other mechanical incisions. However, the surgery would also effectively end her athletics career, a harsh reality.

“Sports were my life,” Morrissette said. “I tried to focus and take my mind off of this terrible news, but athletics is all I really knew at that point. I tried to focus my time on school, but it was really difficult. I felt disappointed, I cried, and felt a lot of loneliness for a long period after the diagnosis.”

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