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.
This was the tired, we-may-close-at-a-moment’s-notice O’Shea’s that tried to go head-to-head with the heavyweights of Las Vegas Boulevard, and lost, miserably. Instead of a Bobby Flay’s Steakhouse, there was a Subway and a Burger King in the back, cordoned off at this hour by mall-quality aluminum gates. This was a local joint, and at 4 a.m., it had the charm of the New York City Port Authority bus depot.
Anyway, the five of us saddled up to a sad, $5 blackjack table in the middle of the near-empty casino, next to a local gentleman who looked like he wanted to be anywhere else in the world than next to five obnoxious partygoers.
Play begins, and we’re at our finest, if “our finest” is meant to infer complete stupidity. A couple hands into our session, the dealer busts, at which point, Kyle, a medical student trapped in a linebacker’s body (They called him “The Horse.”) stands up at his seat and announces to the five other dealers and three down-on-their-luck fellas in the craps pit that, “EVERYBODY’S A WINNER AT O’SHEA’S!”
It didn’t take long for this to catch on, and by the third or fourth victory for our crew, we were declaring it in unison. Maybe we thought our buoyant, devil-may-care approach would galvanize that crumbling relic of a casino and that the staff would applaud our youthful enthusiasm.
They did not.
By the third time, we were viewed with the same level of contempt as “Gigli.” But while we were despised by anybody within earshot, we gave birth to the rallying cry of our weekend. When I see my buddy from college, we can proudly announce, “Everybody’s a winner at O’Shea’s!” and still get a good laugh out of it.
Where was I going with this? Oh, right. This weekend, the Rams are stacking wins on top of each other like Lincoln Logs, and after each triumph came across my Twitter feed, I would recall that weekend and our playfully misguided fun.
Volleyball over Virginia? Everybody’s a winner! Field hockey beats Monmouth? Everybody’s a winner at VCU! Golden goal for women’s soccer? You know it. Everybody’s a winner at VCU! All the way to an 8-0 weekend for the Rams.
Although my mind works mysteriously, randomly, let’s take a minute to stop and appreciate what VCU teams were able to accomplish last week. Here’s the impressive slate of wins:
Monday, Sept. 3
Volleyball: VCU 3, Middle Tennessee State 2
Wednesday, Sept. 5
Field Hockey: VCU 2, Longwood 1
Friday, Sept. 7
Men’s Soccer: VCU 3, Winthrop 0
Women’s Soccer: VCU 1, American 0
Volleyball: VCU 3, Virginia 2
Saturday, Sept. 8
Volleyball: VCU 3, Appalachian State 2
Volleyball: VCU 3, Georgetown 1
Sunday, Sept. 9
Men’s Soccer: VCU 5, Seton Hall 1
Women’s Soccer: VCU 1, Pittsburgh 0
Field Hockey: VCU 3, Monmouth 2
VCU won its way to a 10-0 week, an impressive accomplishment by any measure. VCU’s fall sports are 19-3-4 this season, the best collective start in 15 years. Men’s soccer, women’s soccer, field hockey and volleyball haven’t lost in 13 straight contests. That’s wild. I don’t know if it’s 4 a.m. at O’Shea’s wild, but it’s close.
Volleyball on cloud nine
The Rams topped Virginia, Appalachian State and Georgetown this weekend at the Verizon Wireless Arena to improve to 9-1 for the first time since 2000.
People still liked Max Headroom back then
Volleyball’s heart-stopping victory over Virginia, played before the the biggest crowd in years, was VCU’s first over their neighbors from Charlottesville since 1985, snapping a 15-match losing streak to the Cavaliers.
In 1985, “Fraggle Rock” was as important to me as anything in the world, and the seniors on this year’s VCU team were about seven years away from being born.
Led by first-year Head Coach Shannon Karl, the VCU Field Hockey team is off to a 4-0 start. Only the 1989 and 2009 teams can match that opening. It’s also the best start for any first-year coach in VCU Field Hockey history.
“I love it. We’ve been working towards this for several years, putting together tough schedules and taking some beatings so our kids would grow and get used to this level of competition. It’s really fun and exciting now. It’s a testament to their character, to take those bruises and now have this kind of success.” — VCU Volleyball Head Coach James Finley on the Rams’ 9-1 start
Around The Horns All-Stars
Men’s Soccer: Jason Johnson scored three goals at the Stihl Classic at Old Dominion.
Volleyball: Senior Anett Farkas posted three double-doubles (kills-digs) and was named MVP of the VCU/Third Degree Sportswear Invitational. She also received the key to the city of her hometown of Budapest, Hungary (okay, not really, but we’re working on it).
Field Hockey: Kelsey “Scherr Shot” Scherrer scored with three seconds remaining in overtime to give VCU a 2-1 win over Longwood Monday in Farmville.
Women’s Soccer: Courtney Conrad netted a golden goal, her first score of the season, in overtime to give the Rams a 1-0 win over Pitt.