‘CAN WE BE PLAYING ANYMORE GAMES RIGHT NOW?’

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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?”

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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:

Friday
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.

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

Sunday
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.

I WENT BACK TO THE STU…AND MY SUMMER WAS GONE

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gone-last-summer-wallpapers-1024x768

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.

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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.

CAP TIP TO BASEBALL & CATCHING UP WITH FORMER RAMS

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Lefty Heath Dwyer was 10-3 with a 3.01 ERA for VCU this season.

Lefty Heath Dwyer was 10-3 with a 3.01 ERA for VCU this season.

In case you missed it, VCU Baseball saw its season come to an end over the weekend after dropping a pair of games to No. 5 Miami in the NCAA Super Regionals. It was a heckuva ride, and we enjoyed every minute of it. The Rams went on a late-season tear – winning 13 straight games at one point – to win their first conference title since 2010 and reached the Super Regionals for the first time.

Looking ahead to next season, the Rams return nearly all of their starting lineup in the field, save starting shortstop Vimael Machin, who hit .339. The pitching staff, which posted an outstanding 2.92 ERA, will look completely different next season. Heath Dwyer, JoJo Howie, Matt Lees, Matt Blanchard, Daniel Concepcion, Tyler Buckley and Thomas Gill – seven of VCU’s most-used eight arms – all graduate. Look for right-hander Sean Thompson, who was outstanding as a freshman this year, to anchor that staff next season.

But your opportunity to cheer for some of those seniors may not be over. The 2015 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft begins tonight. The first and second rounds, plus compensation picks, will be held Monday beginning at 7 p.m. Although no Rams are expected to be called tonight, Tuesday’s action will include rounds 3-10, and Wednesday will include rounds 11-40. Hopefully a number of these guys will spend the rest of their summer playing Rookie ball somewhere.

ELSEWHERE…
Speaking of VCU Baseball players continuing their careers in the minors, keep your eye on former Ram Kyle Haynes. A 20th-round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in 2012, Haynes, now a member of the Yankees’ system, is throwing very well at Double-A Trenton. As of this writing, he’s dealing to the tune of a 1.82 ERA in 18 appearances. Trenton will be visiting the Richmond Flying Squirrels at The Diamond June 23-26.

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JOHANSEN’S TRAVELS YIELD GOALS MET, SCORED

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By Nathan Heintschel

Senior Maren Johansen leads the VCU Women's Soccer team with eight goals this season.

Senior Maren Johansen leads the VCU Women’s Soccer team with eight goals this season.

“My mama always said, ‘life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’” – Forrest Gump

Among other things, the movie “Forrest Gump” is the story of a protagonist who builds a prosperous life through years of serendipitous travel. Whether or not VCU senior Maren Johansen draws any parallels between “Gump”, one of her favorite films, and her own journey is unclear. But today, if Johansen looks back, the VCU Women’s Soccer team’s leading scorer would have to view the thousands of miles she traveled to play college soccer as at least a little fortuitous.

A native of Mosjoen, Norway, Johansen had never set foot on United States soil until her official recruiting visit to VCU, but in the last four years she managed to adjust to a vastly different culture. As her affinities for “Forrest Gump” and pulled pork would suggest, she’s quickly learned to fit in with Americans.

The youngest child of Vidar Johansen and Kristi Hauge says she enjoyed an active and safe childhood with her siblings Kaja and Petter. Mosjoen could inspire parallels to a small American town, that is, until you learn she grew up an hour south of the Arctic Circle, near a fjord, in a mountainous region, with drastically different light and dark cycles.

Johansen’s involvement in soccer during her childhood followed a similar path to most European children.

“When you grow up in Europe, you’re going to at least try soccer.” Johansen said. “All my siblings played soccer too. As a kid, if you’re good at [soccer] you’re going to continue to play it.”

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WHAT A KICK IN THE HEAD

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Welcome to our first installment of what will a reoccurring series (until I am mortally wounded in the process), called, “Can CK Play?” The idea, other then to shed light on the woeful current state of my athletic abilities, is to bring you a little closer to VCU’s student-athletes and their unique skill sets. I’m not sure I earned an MLS tryout from this.

EVERYBODY IN THE POOL, SUMMER’S GONE

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Summer’s gone. I’m not concerned with the technical definition of the season. We’ve all been conditioned to mentally terminate the summer once school resumes. I still do that today because when fall sports kick back online every August, it’s go time in the office. That day is today. We got a little preview last week with women’s soccer’s early start at Virginia Tech and Marshall, but Friday and Saturday, field hockey, volleyball and men’s soccer will also begin their 2014 campaigns.

Our first order of business today is to present our next fall sports preview, field hockey. Although this sport willfully chooses to water artificial grass, we still love them. The Rams were 10-10 a year ago under former player and first-year Coach Laura Baker. This year’s squad is channeling its inner Queen Latifah, with more than a little conversation given to unity.

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VCU Volleyball is in Fort Collins, Colorado this weekend, where all they’ll do is play a road match against the No. 18 team in the country (Colorado State), then two other teams that are receiving votes (Marquette and UC Santa Barbara). This year’s roster features more freshmen (8) than upperclassmen combined (7), so the kids will get an idea about the top end of Division I volleyball pretty quickly. Second-year Coach Jody Rogers, who punts excuses into the rafters for fun, doesn’t sound concerned.

“Age is just a number, and I always tell them that. I don’t want to have an excuse, everybody else sees a young team, I don’t care. They’re ready. I want them to be ready.”

The Rams were 26-8 last year in Rogers’ first season.

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DETAILS AND DIRTY WORK; RAMS AIM TO BUILD ON 2013 CAMPAIGN

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In many ways, the 2013 season was a “getting-to-know-you” kind of campaign for the VCU Women’s Soccer team. After an 8-8-3 season under first-year Coach Lindsay Vanderspiegel, the Rams now have a clear understanding of where they’re headed. This season, led by All-Conference players Emma Kruse and Casey Boyer, VCU wants everybody else to know what they’re all about as well.

FALL RAM REPORT NOW ONLINE

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Folks, the Fall 2013 edition of The Ram Report is now available online. Check out profiles on Men’s Soccer goalie Andrew Wells, Women’s Soccer Coach Lindsey Vanderspiegel, former first round draft pick Justin Orenduff and Field Hockey’s Nicole Barry, who had an interesting summer internship, plus a bunch of other good stuff. Click the cover below to read it all.

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VANDERSPIEGEL: IN PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

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Lindsey Vanderspiegel ditched a 9-to-5 desk job to pursue coaching and find happiness.

Lindsey Vanderspiegel ditched a 9-to-5 desk job to pursue coaching and find happiness.

RICHMOND, Va. – Lindsey Vanderspiegel isn’t one for doing things halfway. When she’s in, she’s all in. It would seem there is no coaching-related task too insignificant or mundane that she’s not actively trying to master.

Hofstra Coach Simon Riddiough would know. He says he still hasn’t fully overcome the loss of Vanderspiegel, his assistant from 2007-2010.

“If you come into my office there’s paperwork everywhere,” Riddiough mused. “She wouldn’t allow that.”

It’s a small point, but one that’s symptomatic of the way Vanderspiegel, named the sixth head coach in VCU Women’s Soccer history on May 30, runs her ship; thorough, organized, enthusiastic. It’s likely why Vanderspiegel has climbed the coaching ladder at the speed of a runaway locomotive. At 30, the Chesapeake, Va. native is primed to take the reigns of her second Division I program. Her first foray, at Georgia Southern the last two years, produced that school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in women’s soccer.

“She’s probably one of the most ambitious people I’ve met in my life,” says her former Georgia Southern assistant, Brian Dunleavy, who has since been hired as her successor. “She’ll be rising for a long time.”

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MEET LINDSEY VANDERSPIEGEL

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Chesapeake native Lindsey Vanderspiegel was named head coach of the VCU Women’s Soccer program this summer. Let’s take a few minutes and meet her, shall we?

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