VCU Field Hockey Coach Stacey Bean (right) is set to lead the Rams against St. Francis (Pa.), a program she led from 2008-16 on Friday, Oct. 20. 

By Evan Nicely

VCU Field Hockey’s 2017 season has reached a crucial point, as the Rams embark on the final three-game stretch to close out Atlantic 10 play and attempt to qualify for the Atlantic 10 Tournament for the first time since 2013.

The first leg of that home stretch begins Friday against a familiar foe for VCU Head Coach Stacey Bean, Saint Francis (Pa.). Bean, who served as head coach for the Red Flash from 2008-16 prior to joining VCU, says despite the history, it’ll be just another A-10 conference game.

“It really is the same. A lot of people point out that we’re playing Saint Francis on the 20th and I just tell them we’re playing another conference team. We respect all of our opponents and especially our A-10 opponent. The respect level is there. I know their team and I know a lot of their kids but they have a different coach and are playing a different style, similar to what we’re doing here at VCU with a different style and different coach,” said Bean.

Under her tutelage, the Red Flash won at least 10 games each of the last three seasons, advancing to the Atlantic 10 Tournament twice in those years. Bean was also named the A-10 Coach of the Year in 2014 and the Northeast Conference Coach of the Year in 2012. Her 2016 Saint Francis team boasted two First Team All-Atlantic 10 selections, one second team choice and two All-Atlantic 10 Rookie selections.

Despite her coaching success with the Red Flash and knowledge of the program, she won’t be facing the same type of team she knew.

“They’re very much a different team even though I’m familiar with their program. Our focus is always on what we do well and let’s try to do that a little bit better week-to-week,” said Bean.

Bean successfully guided the Red Flash from the Northeast Conference into the competitive Atlantic 10 in 2013 and never posted a losing season during her team’s four years in the A-10. The Red Flash finished 10-7 in 2015, 14-3 in 2014 and 8-8 in 2013. A big reason for her success was her players at Saint Francis.

“They’re good kids, and I recruited them for a reason. They’re talented, work their butts off and I have a lot of respect for that program. It’ll be really nice to see those kids, but my focus is on our kids and our team. I’ll say hi to them afterwards but our focus has to be on our opponent and not necessarily a familiar face,” said Bean.

The focus on the game is an important one as the Rams are tied with Saint Francis for the fourth spot in the A-10 standings and are just ahead of La Salle, Sunday’s opponent. Two VCU wins this weekend would go a long way in clinching a spot in the A-10 Tournament. Luckily for the Rams, both games are being played on their home turf at Cary Street Field.

“It’s human nature to have a different mentality when you’re playing at home. It’s our turf so you can get a little stoked game. They’re conference games and by nature the kids are going to be fired up for A-10 conference games,” said Bean.
For a new coach and staff, the Rams have already surpassed last season’s win total and are looking to qualify for the first A-10 Tournament since 2013.

“I think we’re right where we should be in the mix for one of those top four spots. We’ve set ourselves up well for this stretch run with home games against conference opponents like Saint Francis and La Salle who are having good years but we get them at home,” said Bean.