Marle van Dessel ranks second in VCU history in goals scored (36).

The van Dessel Conundrum.
Twin sisters Marle and Flore van Dessel ushered in a rebirth of VCU Field Hockey. When younger sister Rymme van Dessel joined the pack – winning CAA Rookie of the Year honors in the process – the Rams enjoyed their best season in nearly two decades. Eight starters return for VCU, including All-CAA First Teamer Kelsey Scherrer and All-Rookie pick Emilie Soares, but can Coach Kelly McQuade and the Rams offset the loss of the best trio since Crosby, Stills and Nash?

Scherrer genius? Junior Kelsey Scherrer is primed for an assault on the VCU record books. Entering 2011, Scherrer has 26 goals and 65 points in 37 career matches. After scoring 15 goals in 2010, the Chesapeake, Va. native needs 13 more to become the Rams’ all-time leader, a mark held by Alycia Yoder (38) since 1994. Yoder also holds VCU’s career points record at 97.

Cook brewing success?
Distance Coach Nicole Cook took over VCU’s cross country programs last year and has her sights set on an upward trajectory. VCU’s harriers will be an experienced group, losing a total of just three seniors between the two teams. Last year’s women’s squad is essentially intact for 2011, while the men’s team, which finished fourth at the CAA Championships last season, will seek to replace top runner Piotr Dybas. Talented rising senior Axel Mostrag, 29th at last year’s CAA Championship race, leads the way.

Kristin Boyd averaged 2.52 kills per set last season.

Boyd to fill void?
When she arrived at VCU four years ago, Kristin Boyd resembled baby Bambi on ice – pensive, wide-eyed and raw. Thousands of repetitions later, Boyd is expected to provide the firepower for this year’s volleyball squad. Boyd hit her stride midway through last season and the redshirt junior finished the year second on the team in kills per set (2.52). Now, the Wilmington, N.C. native aims to lead the Rams, picked fourth in the CAA Preseason Poll.

Is six the fix?
CAA Athletic Directors voted this summer to expand league tournaments in volleyball, field hockey, field hockey, soccer and baseball back to six teams. For the past two seasons, tournament fields in those sports were four teams. Although getting into a CAA Championship tournament just got easier, actually winning a conference title is now that much more difficult.

Brave new world?
Second-year Coach Dave Giffard welcomes 16 new players in 2011, a year removed from an 18-player recruiting class. The result is a completely overhauled VCU Soccer program in just two years. The team may have to wear name tags until October, but the Rams expect to be in the CAA mix.

International house of futbol. Sophomores Jason Johnson and Jose Carlos Castillo spent their offseasons toiling with the Jamaican Olympic qualifying squad and Guatemalan U-20 team, respectively. Recently, Castillo was invited join the Guatemalan team for World Cup qualifying and may not join the Rams until after the first week of September. Both will be critical to the Rams’ success in 2011, but both will need time to integrate back into Giffard’s system. The sooner they do, the better VCU could be.

VCU looks to All-ACC keeper Kristin Carden this season.

Rolling in the deep?
For the first time in their five-year tenure, Co-Head Coaches Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak and Tim Sahaydak will have more than a water cooler and athletic trainer on their bench. This year’s roster includes 29 players, a welcome relief to VCU’s recent depth issues. For a couple of seasons there were just 15 available players and at one point during the 2008 campaign, the Rams had just one available sub down the stretch.

Carden on guard? All-ACC goalkeeper Kristin Carden, formerly of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, joins the Rams in 2011. Carden ranks second in wins (18) and goals against average (1.33) and third in shutouts (9) on the Hokies’ all-time lists, and she did that in just two seasons. Her impact on VCU should be immediate.

Almost all of us. The good news is that the women’s soccer team graduated just one player from last season’s team. The bad news is that the one player was CAA Defender of the Year Myriam Bouchard, who, unfortunately does not have 12 years of eligibility. After a series of disguises were deemed inadequate, the coaching staff decided to just replace Bouchard. Despite her loss, VCU returns a young, talented bunch in 2011 and the Sahaydaks are counting on a breakout season.