HALLOWEEN: VCU STYLE

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VCU teams really got into Halloween Tuesday. Check out how three squads, baseball, volleyball and women’s basketball, celebrated.

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MEDIA MINUTES: OCT. 31 (MIKE RHOADES DEBUT)

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Basketball season is bearing down on us. Here’s VCU Coach Mike Rhoades in his debut weekly press conference to size up the current status of his team and to take a look at Friday’s exhibition with Virignia Union.

DESPITE FAMILIAR FACES, BEAN WILL AIM TO KEEP FOCUS ON VCU FRIDAY

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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.

INSIDE A-10 MEN’S BASKETBALL MEDIA DAY

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Enjoy this look at Mike Rhoades’ and Justin Tillman’s trip to Atlantic 10 Conference Media Day in Washington, D.C.

VIDEO: BLACK & GOLD GAME

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VCU FIELD HOCKEY, FASTER, FEISTIER IN 2017

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Maite Sturm

Freshman Maite Sturm has been one of the driving forces behind VCU Field Hockey’s resurgence in 2017.

By Andy Lohman

VCU field hockey shifted gears for the 2017 season, and it’s paying immediate dividends.

Midway through Head Coach Stacey Bean’s first year at the helm of the Rams, they have already surpassed last year’s win total (7) with a record of 8-3. The team’s 8-1 record through its first nine matches was the program’s best start since 2012.

The intensity of the program has changed, and the Rams playing up-tempo hockey.

“We’ve just really changed two things,” Bean said. “I think the tempo of training has changed, just the level of focus. And then also we’ve changed our system of play a little bit to put some kids in some positions that I think that are better for their skill set.”

The faster game has led to more goals. Through 11 games, the Rams have found the back of the net 28 times, for a 2.55 goals per game average. Last season, VCU averaged just 2.17 goals per contest.

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BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND…

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SEAL Team PT is back.  Mike Rhoades, a high-energy fella, loves him some SEAL Team. While these players are already in outstanding shape, SEAL Team PT is also an opportunity for team building. These guys can run suicides any day they want, but SEAL Team offers something more. Enjoy!

RODRIGUEZ EYES NEW CHAPTER IN VCU RETURN

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Joey Rodriguez, who helped lead the Rams to the Final Four in 2011, returns in 2017 as director of player development for the Rams.

By Andy Lohman

Joey Rodriguez had to take a circuitous route back to VCU, but the fan-favorite point guard from the 2011 Final Four team is now the Director of Player Development for men’s basketball.

“It’s just cool to be back, it brings back so many memories,” Rodriguez said. “We can take this thing to another level and that’s really exciting.”

After an outstanding career at VCU, where he ranks third in school history in both assists (580) and steals (237), and where he helped steer the Rams to a historic Final Four run in 2011, Rodriguez briefly played professional basketball in Turkey and Puerto Rico. He would then begin his coaching career as the Assistant Video Coordinator at Central Florida.

Following a year with the Golden Knights, Rodriguez dove into the realm of high school basketball, first as an assistant coach at Benedictine in Richmond, then taking the reigns as head coach of his alma mater, Lake Howell High School, in Winter Park, Fla. for the 2015-16 season.

“I learned a lot just being thrown into the fire with a great group of kids,” said Rodriguez of his first head coaching gig.

The experience helped him evolve as he transitioned off the court and onto the sidelines.

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RESILIENT GRIFFIN TRACKS DOWN MYTHICAL PGA TOUR CARD

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After seven years of trying, VCU alumnus Lanto Griffin (’10) recently earned his PGA Tour card.

By Andy Lohman

On the 18th hole of the second stage of the 2016 Web.com Tour Q school (a qualifying tournament for the professional golf tour that serves as a pipeline of talent for the PGA Tour), former VCU standout Lanto Griffin hit a perfect putt that rolled right to the hole. And stopped right on the lip. He would miss advancing to the next stage by one shot.

“That was kind of a kick in the stomach,” Girffin said. “I had been playing the best golf of my life and that set me back.”

A single shot would make the difference again during the final stage of the 2017 Q school, but this time it would work in Griffin’s favor.

“I missed full status by one shot but I played the last 11 holes 5-under and birdied the last hole to go from two shots out [of the tour] to one, which I didn’t know how big that was at the time but that ended up getting me seven of the first eight starts, where if I had missed that putt I would have gotten one,” Griffin said.

While Griffin didn’t have full exempt status for the Web.com Tour for the whole season, he had gained entry into seven tournaments, from which point he could work his way up the money list to earn more starts later in the year. Griffin will go from being happy to have his foot in the door for the 2017 season, to rubbing elbows with the top players in the game as a PGA Tour Card holder for the full 2018 season.

“That birdie on that last hole in Orange County changed my life,” Griffin said.

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TWO VIDEOS WORTH YOUR TIME

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VCU Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Rhoades spent three seasons at Rice University in Houston. He still owns a home there, and he and his family still have many friends in the city. It’s no surprise Rhoades has been heartbroken by the stories and images coming out of Houston, which has been ravaged by flooding produced by Hurricane Harvey. It’s one reason why Rhoades has begun mobilizing efforts to help out those in need in his former city. Learn more:

In lighter fare, JeQuan Lewis is preparing to chase his dream of playing in the NBA. He’ll be in camp with the Milwaukee Bucks this fall, fighting for a roster spot.

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