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"I love VCU Soccer. I ain't lion."

“I love VCU Soccer. I ain’t lion.”

If you’re a follower of VCU Athletics over at the DOT com site, you may have caught this great interview between Rams’ Baseball Coach Shawn Stiffler and Men’s Soccer Coach Dave Giffard. Well, these guys are pretty chatty, so something was bound to get left on the cutting room floor. That leads us to this. Giffard does as much international recruiting as any VCU coach, which is how he ended up fearing of his life on an African safari.


Hey, we’re not all safaris and sportsball trophies over here. You can see games and championship celebrations. But it’s important for us to reiterate that academics are the cornerstone of this department. We want to prepare these men and women for the rest of their lives, not just four years of games.

This week, VCU Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin hosted an ice cream social for student-athletes who achieved a 3.5 grade point average last semester. A record 81 VCU student-athletes qualified.


Also this week, spring-loaded VCU outside hitter Jessica Young, an A-10 All-Rookie Team pick last year, sat down with ESPN 950s Greg Burton. During the interview, Young discussed one of the secrets to her early success, her commitment to weight training. There’s a great chance Young can outlift you. And outjump you. And outrun you. Have a listen.


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Fourteen years ago today, a generation lost its innocence.

We’ve all been changed by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, good in some ways and not so much in others. The world is a different place, and we are different because of it.

Many lessons rose from those ashes, notably, what heroism and courage really look like, and that even on the darkest of days, humanity prevails. It also forced us to reexamine our priorities. We’re humans. We fill our days with minutiae and convince ourselves of its importance.

We’re not as diligent about this as we were back then, myself included. It’s natural. Last night, I was legitimately irritated about a football game, not to mention a bunch of other nonsense.

But I wake up every Sept. 11 to a stark reminder, and I’m thankful to be here, when so many others are not.

For those of us working in sports, it’s an odd feeling. We spend most of the year convincing ourselves how important these games are, but on Sept. 11, it’s like hitting a reset button. While this is our chosen vocation, and we take a great deal of pride in it, we’re still working in the entertainment business. We shouldn’t try not to take ourselves too seriously.

Yet, as much as I recognize the inflated presence sports holds in our lives, I must also acknowledge their power to unify, and yes, to entertain. Trivial or not, we need entertainment, and we need a sense of community. Sports are part of the fabric of our lives, and in the weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks, they allowed us – for a few hours – to return to a feeling of normalcy.

When Joe Andruzzi of the New England Patriots carried an American flag onto the field in the NFL’s first weekend back, it gave us chills, a real, visceral reaction. The 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks, which included then-President George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch in Game 3, felt more like a cathartic celebration of America than it did a baseball championship.

It’s still a complicated, often scary, world out there, and we’re happy that you folks are willing to come and get away from it all with us. We’re glad you’re a part of our community, the VCU Athletics community.

We’re also humbled by the opportunity to honor those who protect us, and those whose ranks were devastated by the horrors of 9-11. Tonight, during VCU’s Men’s Soccer match at Sports Backers Stadium (7 p.m.), we’re saluting First Responders. Members of the police, fire and EMS (and their families) get in free.

These are small gestures, and I’m not sure there’s anything we can do to say thank you enough, but we’d like to start somewhere.

It’s a wild world, so join us, if you’d like, and turn your attention to these trivial pursuits we love.

Then go home and give somebody a hug.






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Fifteen of VCU's 18 Atlantic 10 Conference games will be broadcast on national networks.

Fifteen of VCU’s 18 Atlantic 10 Conference games will be broadcast on national networks.

Big sportsball news today. No, not that deflated footballs thing. I mean, VCU released its full basketball schedule, complete with teevee information. As my 3-year-old says at the pool, let’s dive it.


We’ve known about the non-conference schedule for weeks now, so I won’t get into that too much, other than to note CBS Sports Net picking up the Cincinnati game on Dec. 19.

Atlantic 10 Conference play begins on Jan. 2 with a familiar face. The Rams will welcome George Mason to the Siegel Center that day. VCU swept a pair of games from the Patriots last year. Mason, however, will look quite a bit different. Dave Paulsen, a TV sitcom dad look-alike, has taken over as head coach.



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Tom Cruise took early lumps in films like "Losin' It" before putting together championship-like performances in movies like "Risky Business" and "Top Gun".

Tom Cruise took early lumps in films like “Losin’ It” before putting together championship-like performances in movies like “Risky Business” and “Top Gun”.

If you had your choice to play any kid on the playground one-on-one, who are you going to pick? Are you going to zero in on some diminutive kid with a bad haircut and a busted jumper, or are you going to body up to future All-American and genetic lottery winner Johnny Riflearm? Your choice is an important one.

Sure, you could run that first kid off the playground and still have time to go get lunch, but what would you learn? What would you gain, other than a false sense of confidence? On the other hand, Mr. Riflearm may block your shots, drive right past you and dunk in your grill. But I’d be willing to bet you’d be a better player for it.

Similarly, VCU teams could rack up a bunch of early wins by playing weak teams. That kind of thing happens all the time. But it’s clear they’ve chosen the more difficult path, the high-resistance, high-reward path.

It’s why you should be able to understand a weekend that didn’t produce much in the way of wins, but inevitably helped the Rams sharpen their edges. The VCU Volleyball team went to Purdue and took on a Boilermakers team that has been a fixture in the NCAA Tournament. The Men’s Soccer team welcomed back-to-back ranked teams to Sports Backers Stadium, Field Hockey opened on the road at Kent State and Women’s Soccer hosted perhaps the CAA’s best team in James Madison.

Each coach has different feelings on moral victories, but you can’t deny the way the Rams tested some very good teams. Hopefully in the future, overtime will be a little more friendly to VCU.

In the meantime, we’re going to take our lumps and move on. Volleyball is first up with Tuesday’s home opener against William & Mary. The Rams and Tribe comprised one of the CAA’s best rivalries during VCU’s final years in the CAA, and it’s nice to see the series continue.

More importantly, we’re giving away free pizza and sunglasses to VCU students tonight. For you VCU students, here are a few .gifs I hope will show you how to appropriately utilize your new eyeware.

The optimist.

Channel your inner optimist.



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Phoebe never did make it out of Central Perk.

Phoebe never did make it out of Central Perk.

I’m no Taylor Swift fan, but, she can be an awfully likable person sometimes. I enjoyed the heck out of “Friends” during its 10-year run, and seeing Lisa Kudrow sing “Smelly Cat”, the most memorable song in the career of Kudrow’s “Friends” character, eccentric coffee house singer Phoebe Buffay, with Swift, the burgeoning pop megastar, did spark my internal archive of the series.

One of my favorite memories is from the episode “The One Where No One’s Ready”. In one scene, Joey seeks revenge on Chandler by wearing his entire wardrobe, all at once. During the ensuing argument, Joey teases Chandler. “

“Look at me, I’m Chandler. Could I BE wearing anymore clothes?”


It goes on from there.

I uttered something similar the other day when I noticed a full weekend of VCU games, the first of the school year. We got a little teaser last weekend with the women’s soccer openers, plus some exhibitions in other sports, but now we’re going full bore. Can we be playing anymore games right now?

Check out this slate:

Women’s soccer vs. Charleston, 5 p.m.
Men’s soccer vs. No. 25 Akron, 7:30 p.m.
Volleyball at Purdue, 7 p.m.

Field hockey at Kent State, 1 p.m.
Volleyball vs. Ohio (1 p.m.) and Austin Peay (5 p.m.)

Men’s soccer vs. No. 21 Coastal Carolina, 5 p.m.
Women’s soccer vs. James Madison, 7:30 p.m.

With that much action, it might be difficult for you, as a responsible VCU fan, to know what to watch. Let me help.

You may notice that men’s soccer is playing two ranked teams. This will be a theme throughout the season. VCU Coach Dave Giffard has made a point of assembling one of the toughest, if not THE toughest, schedules in the country. As of right now, there are NINE ranked teams on the schedule, including the top three teams in the country. I’m pretty sure Giffard would schedule Real Madrid if compliance would sign off on it. There’s going to be a ton of top-notch soccer played at Sports Backers Stadium this fall, so make sure you catch some of it.

The volleyball team will have a bit of a new look this year. The Rams will look to replace three key starters, including a couple of players who were good enough to sign pro deals. The Rams will be tested early at Purdue, a perennial Big Ten power. There’s also a bit of VCU history involved here. The Rams met Purdue in their first NCAA Tournament match in 2005. The next night the Rams draw Ohio, the alma mater of your favorite blogger and a team that is normally in the mix for an NCAA bid.

There’s plenty more to keep an eye on, of course. Field hockey will be getting underway and women’s soccer looks to build on a 1-1 start, but I’ll spare you the 1,000-word blog this week. Just know you can keep up with all that stuff on VCU Athletics DOT com, as well as all of our associated Twitter accounts.

Between now and then, I’m going to launch a Twitter campaign to convince Taylor Swift to invite David Schwimmer and his keyboard onstage at her next show.


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Green means go. Red means go-al.

Green means go. Red means go-al.

Aaaaaand we’re underway.

I wish college soccer would take a page out of hockey’s playbook. I’d love to see the sport adopt a red lamp and fog horn atop the goals for when teams score. That way, when the Rams blast one into the back of the net, you’d hear about it on Main Street.

Our not-quite-a-reality-yet foghorn would’ve gotten a workout in the VCU Women’s Soccer opener Friday. The Rams owned the honor of opening up the 2015-16 VCU Athletics campaign, and they didn’t disappoint.

VCU lit the lamp four times on the way to a 4-2 win over that team from Norfolk. It started quietly. Megan Dell’s 16th-minute strike was the only score of the first half. That didn’t last long. The two teams combined for five goals during one 28-minute stretch of the second half. VCU’s Kelly Graves earned a gold star from this blog for providing a goal and an assist for the Rams.


Unfortunately, the Rams couldn’t carry over one of those goals to Sunday, when they dropped a 1-0 nailbiter to Marshall. But VCU will get two more cracks this weekend, when both Charleston (Friday, 5 p.m.) and James Madison (Sunday, 7:30 p.m.) visit Sports Backers Stadium.

In other news, the VCU women flashed some nice gold home uniforms on Sunday. Home whites can look clean and nice, but they rarely catch the eye like gold. I loved them.

Sharon Wojcik scored her first goal of the season on Friday.

Sharon Wojcik scored her first goal of the season on Friday.

The Women’s Soccer team was the only VCU squad to log action in a game that actually counted in the standings, but that doesn’t mean the Rams’ other teams weren’t busy.

The VCU Men’s Soccer team fell to N.C. State 1-0 in an exhibition. Despite the loss, VCU Coach Dave Giffard sounded encouraged by the performance.

“It was good to get out and play against another college team. We got minutes for a lot of guys (27) and we were able to see where we are at this point in preseason. Several guys got their first minutes for us as new players and For the most part, I thought they did well for the first time out. Now we have a week to work to get better and improve some things, especially in the attack, before we open with a very good Akron team on Friday night.”

The Rams host Akron, where Giffard once served as an assistant coach, Friday night at 7:30 at Sports Backers. In case you didn’t figure it out already, there’s a soccer doubleheader at Sports Backers Friday.

Meanwhile, Volleyball hosted its annual Black and Gold Scrimmage at the Siegel Center. The current Rams topped the alums 3-0, but really, the day was about much more than the volleyball itself. It was about connecting with alumni, and Saturday’s event saw the largest turnout of volleyball alums in many years.

The VCU Volleyball program welcomed back alumni on Saturday.

The VCU Volleyball program welcomed back alumni on Saturday.

The VCU Volleyball and Men’s Soccer teams officially kick off their seasons this week.



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Peace out, summer.

According to the Gregorian Calendar and the autumnal equinox, the first day of fall is Sept. 23. But Pope Gregory XIII – we all called him “Thirteen” back then – never played college soccer. The first day of fall, according to the Athletician (made up word alert!) Calendar is Aug. 21.

The VCU Women’s Soccer team officially kicks off (pun intended) the 2015-16 VCU Athletics season tonight when they host some school from Norfolk at Sports Backers Stadium at 7 p.m.

Now, before you make any rash decisions about your evening and commit to binge-watching the second season of “True Detective”, know a couple of things. No. 1, this season’s “True Detective” was (spoiler alert) disappointing. No. 2, we’ll have dollar hot dogs for everybody, VCU snapback hats for the first 100 students, and the Rams Gameday Garden will be open to help you cool off and relax. You’re welcome.

On the field, it should be a fun season for the Rams, who finished second in the Atlantic 10 regular season last year.


If you can’t make it for Friday’s VCU Soccer Kick-Off-A-Palooza, you can still catch the Rams on Sunday when they return to Sports Backers to meet Marshall at 1 p.m.

There are also a few of exhibitions of note this weekend. The VCU Field Hockey team will meet Kent State on the road Saturday. Meanwhile, the men’s soccer team will host N.C. State at Sports Backers on Saturday, Aug. 22 at 1 p.m. At the same time, over at the Siegel Center, the VCU Volleyball team will host its annual Black & Gold Scrimmage. The Rams will take on a team of VCU alums, and I’ve witnessed the career of many of those players. You’ve got to love a job that reminds you how old you are on a regular basis. FYI, contributions to my retirement fund can be mailed here to my office.

I’m out, but enjoy out season kick-off hype video, then go charge up the side of a mountain while dragging a Fiat.


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Former VCU shortstop Vimael Machin is playing for South Bend, the Chicago Cubs' 'A' affiliate in the Midwest League.

Former VCU shortstop Vimael Machin is playing for South Bend, the Chicago Cubs’ ‘A’ affiliate in the Midwest League.

VCU Athletics’ Mike Voyack had an opportunity to catch up with Treveon Graham recently, which isn’t easy, considering how well Graham moves for a man of his size. No matter, Voyack, camera in tow, wrangled Graham for an interview to update us on his pro prospects. Graham, you’ll remember, is coming off a solid performance with the San Antonio Spurs’ summer league teams in Utah and Las Vegas. Graham averaged 7.8 points and shot 46 percent for the Spurs in 10 games overall. From the sound of it, Graham will have options, and you shouldn’t be surprised if he ends up in an NBA training camp this fall.


Meanwhile, it’s been somewhat of a breakout year for former VCU Soccer star and all-around good guy Andrew Dykstra. After years of bouncing around the MLS in Chicago and feeder leagues like the USL, Dykstra appears to have found comfort for D.C. United. Injuries have thrust him into a regular starting role and he’s been making the best of it. To wit, Dykstra was recently nominated for MLS “Save of the Week” for the third time (vote here).

D.C. United (12-7-5) currently sits in first place in the MLS’ Eastern Conference. The United are 3-3-1 with Dykstra in goal.

When he’s not busy making great saves, Dykstra is making great brews. Last year, D.C. Brau invited Dykstra to tour its brewery, and recently, D.C. United shared this video of Dykstra’s home brew operation.


In baseball news, it appears that Vimael Machin, one of the stars of VCU’s recent NCAA Super Regional run, is settling in at the pro level. A 10th-round selection of the Chicago Cubs organization, Machin is currently playing for South Bend, the Cubs’ A-ball affiliate. Although Machin is still waiting for his signature swing to come around at the plate, he’s still flashing the glove.

Machin has already played third, short and second in his 21-game pro stint. He is hitting .186 in 80 at-bats.


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Former VCU star Lanto Griffin (-12) won the Delta Dental Virginia State Open this weekend.

Former VCU star Lanto Griffin (-12) won the Delta Dental Virginia State Open this weekend.

We’ve officially reached summer’s angry phase in Richmond. The heat index is a billion right now, and my lawn melting. Local weathermen and women are warning people with beards – there are a healthy number of bearded folks in this town – against spending time outdoors, due to the high risk of spontaneous beard brush fires.

But it’s not all bad. As I hunkered down inside and reclined on a couch I fashioned from blocks of ice, I was able to follow the exploits of a handful of VCU alums who killed it this weekend.

First and foremost, Lanto Griffin, a former CAA Golfer of the Year for the Rams, ran away with the Virginia State Open Championship by six strokes this weekend. For his efforts Griffin (-12), who turned pro after graduating from VCU in 2010, pockets $6,300. Griffin opened the tournament with back-to-back rounds of 66 and 68 and took a 5-stroke advantage into Saturday’s final round. Griffin briefly saw his lead cut to three strokes Saturday, but recovered to win going away.

Meanwhile, former VCU Soccer standout Nate Shiffman enjoyed possibly the best moment of his young pro career Sunday when he scored the Richmond Kickers’ lone goal in the 84th minute against West Bromwich Albion from the English Premier League. Shiffman’s strike briefly tied the match, but West Brom answered in the 88th minute to secure a 2-1 win.


Treveon Graham. You’ve heard of him, right? The Rams’ great continues to plug away for the Spurs in NBA Summer League action in Las Vegas. Playing time in summer league games can be all over the map, and Graham’s burn is no exception, but he did pick up 20+plus minutes in back-to-back games this weekend. On Sunday, Graham pumped in 12 points and corralled five rebounds in a summer league semifinal victory over Atlanta.

Graham is still trying to find the range from NBA 3-point range (shooting 22 percent), but his other metrics this summer have been pretty good. He’s averaging 6.2 points and 2.8 boards and shooting 42 percent overall for the Spurs in nine contests. Graham and the Spurs will play in the Las Vegas Summer League Championship Game against Phoenix Monday at 9 p.m. on NBATV.

The latest edition of the Ram Report is online now! Check out a feature on VCU Basketball Coach Will Wade, not to mention stories on Olivia Sutton, the first lacrosse player in VCU history, and baseball’s connection to Puerto Rico. READ HERE.


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Matthew Delicate (center) is the leading scorer in both VCU and Richmond Kickers history. (Photo credit: James Loving)

Matthew Delicate (center) is the leading scorer in both VCU and Richmond Kickers history. (Photo credit: James Loving)

RICHMOND, Va. – On Wednesday, the Richmond Kickers will host the Columbus Crew in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the country’s oldest ongoing soccer competition. In all, 91 amateur and professional teams vie for the right to call themselves the best team in America.

The VCU Soccer program has long been intertwined with the USL’s Kickers, who began play in 1993. When the Kickers take the pitch Wednesday in search of an upset, VCU will certainly have a hand, or a foot, in the effort.

A number of former VCU stars have suited up for the Kickers over the years, including Andrew Dykstra as part of a loan agreement with D.C. United. Against Columbus on Wednesday, three former Rams, Matthew Delicate, Owusu Sekyere and Nathan Shiffman will wear Kickers red.

The Kickers represent something different to all three players, who find themselves at different junctures of their careers, but they all agree that the organization has allowed them to keep playing their beloved game, while finding a home in Richmond.

Matthew Delicate knows moments like Wednesday’s match aren’t unlimited. They are to be cherished. Events like the U.S. Open Cup and the opportunity to chase another USL Championship, like the one Richmond captured in 2009, keep him coming back.

“Once you get a taste of that, you want to continue that, and there’s a lot of guys that will go their whole career without winning things like that,” he said. “I don’t have many seasons left, so time is running out, and that’s why I want to bring another one back to Richmond. That would be nice.”


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