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.

RR-fall13-cover

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?

THE YEAR IN VCU ATHLETICS, FROM A TO Z

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Wrong A-B-C...whatever, close enough.

Wrong A-B-C…whatever, close enough.

June marks the conclusion of the college athletics calendar, and July’s arrival effectively signals the beginning of the 2013-14 season, at least for those of us in the biz, anyway. It all makes this week a good time to reflect back on the year that was in VCU Athletics.

A – is for Atlantic 10 Conference, in which, according to our slogan, the Rams were ‘all-in’. We were also all-in for another season of “Arrested Development” and Pop Tart ice cream sandwiches, so we’re having a good year. VCU competed in the A-10 for the first time in 2012-13, a move that has elevated the program’s national profile. The Rams’ first A-10 title came via the women’s tennis squad, followed by a men’s tennis crown days later. Meanwhile, several other sports (men’s basketball, women’s soccer, men’s soccer) reached the league’s championship final.

B – is for the Ball family, one of the driving forces behind the VCU Golf program. They’re like the Kennedy’s of VCU Golf, but with a better short game. Matt Ball may have just completed his 14th season with the Rams, but this one was surely different than the others. That’s because 40 percent of his starting lineup was occupied by sons Adam and Matt Jr. Son Adam, a freshman, led the Rams in scoring average (73.53) this year, while Matt Jr., a junior, placed seventh at the A-10 Championship and was named to the league’s All-Academic Team.

C – is for Courtney Conrad, the alliteratively named star of the women’s soccer team. Conrad led the Rams with 11 goals, including five game-winners, and received All-Mid-Atlantic by the NSCAA.

D – is for Daniels, Troy. If you are a fan of basketball players who score three points at a time (and the signed, obscure Mark Price picture in my dining room proves I am), then you would’ve enjoyed Daniels’ 2012-13 season. In 36 games, Daniels bombed a school-record 124 three-pointers, including games of 11, nine and eight.

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HERE’S THE (POSTSEASON) SITUATION…

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VCU’s last fall sports conference championship came in volleyball in 2005. The Rams have four chances to end that drought this fall.

VCU sports are enjoying a record-breaking fall, and for the first time since 2000, field hockey, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball will all play in the conference tournament in the same year. A couple of them have legitimate NCAA at-large shots as well. Here’s a quick look at the postseason prospects of VCU’s fall athletic programs.

FIELD HOCKEY (13-5, 4-3 A-10)
Remaining Schedule:
Regular season complete
Atlantic 10 Tournament: The Rams are the No. 4 seed and will meet top-seeded Richmond in the semifinals on Friday, Nov. 2 at 11 a.m. in Amherst, Mass. Click HERE for the A-10 Championship page.
Conference Championships: None
NCAA Appearances: None
Current NCAA RPI: 30
The Skinny: If this were hoops, VCU’s 30 RPI would be a sure ticket to the NCAA Tournament. However, the NCAA Field Hockey Championship is 16 teams, which means the Rams need to win the A-10 Tournament to dance. It won’t be an easy task. The Rams are 0-3 against the A-10 Tourney field (Richmond, Temple and UMASS) this season.

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FALL SPORTS, SUMMED UP IN ONE PLAY

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It was another banner weekend in VCU Athletics. Fall sports were unbeaten (again). Volleyball and field hockey swept a pair of matches, women’s soccer beat Richmond, men’s soccer picked up a draw and a win. Nice, tidy 6-0-1 weekend. Heck, for good measure, 17-year-old freshman Jake McNulty fired a 69 in the first round of the OBX/ODU Collegiate Sunday morning for the VCU Golf team.

VCU fall sports (volleyball, field hockey, men’s soccer, women’s soccer) have a combined record of 50-14-7. If the regular season ended today, all four would qualify for their respective conference tournaments for the first time since 2000.

Below is a great example of how we roll at VCU. Redshirt freshman Uzoamaka Ibeh is a great kid from Jersey. Works hard. Great teammate. But she hasn’t played much as a Ram. Saturday’s match with Duquesne marked the seventh appearance of her career. That didn’t stop her from diving headlong into the scorer’s table to make this save. I was practically on top of the play and it was much better in person. All hustle.

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