FOR A NIGHT, RAMS SETTLE INTO NEW SYSTEM

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Freshman Jessica Pellechio hit 9-of-18 three-pointers and poured in 30 points as VCU earned its first win of the High Octane era under Marlene Stollings

RICHMOND, Va. – So, this is High Octane.

After three games of starts, stops, spurts and sputters, VCU’s new look, dubbed “High Octane” by first-year Head Coach Marlene Stollings, clicked Tuesday night in a 79-55 rout of UMKC.

“I’m very proud of our young ladies,” Stollings said. “It’s not easy to go on the road to start the season, and this was well earned and well deserved to come back home and get an opportunity to show our fans for the first time with the new system and the new staff basically what we want to be about, which is getting up and down the floor and shooting three ball, which are two things we did very well tonight.”

You could argue Stollings was even being a bit modest. At the forefront of VCU’s shift into high gear was something she promised would be a High Octane staple, 3-point shooting. The Rams punished the Kangaroos’ zone to the tune of a school-record 13 three-pointers, including nine from freshman guard Jessica Pellechio, who finished with 30 points. Pellechio hit 9-of-18 from beyond the arc and was one 3-pointer short of tying the VCU record of 10, set by Meagan Evans in 2001.

“I struggled my first few shots,” Pellechio said. “Sometimes you’ve got to keep shooting as a shooter, but good shots, you never want to be off balance or [shooting] bad shots. We got it in and back out and set up my rhythm, and after a while you keep shooting and it falls.”

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2011-12 VCU WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PREVIEW

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All-American Courtney Hurt led the nation in rebounding (12.4 rpg) and double-doubles (25) last season. She also ranked second nationally in scoring (23.2 ppg)

When Beth Cunningham took over as head coach in 2003, there was exactly one postseason banner hanging inside the Verizon Wireless Arena for the women’s basketball program.

If that wasn’t bad enough by itself, that lonely piece of fabric was old enough that the tournament it was intended to celebrate, the National Women’s Invitation Tournament, had changed its name since the Rams’ 1995 appearance.

Now there are five banners, including a giant gold and white one from VCU’s 2009 NCAA Tournament appearance. In Cunningham’s eight seasons at the helm, the Rams have rewritten VCU Women’s Basketball history. VCU has reached the postseason in four consecutive seasons. The Rams are working on a school-record streak of five straight winning seasons. Three of the program’s four 20-win campaigns have come under her watch. The school’s all-time leader in victories with 148, Cunningham has coached two WNBA draft picks and an All-American.

At this point, when she takes inventory of the program, Cunningham doesn’t have to ask what the Rams have done, it’s what they still need to do. When she looks up into that northwest corner of the arena, she knows the answer. The Rams are still chasing their elusive first conference championship, Colonial Athletic Association or otherwise. VCU reached the championship game in 2008, another first for the program, but fell to Old Dominion.

“It’s something that you’d like to have already done, hang a championship banner, but there’s been so many good things that have happened with our program…it’s part of the building process,” Cunningham, 148-100 in eight seasons, said.

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