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Transfer Taleah Scott has scored two goals and assisted on two others for VCU this season.

Transfer Taleah Scott has scored two goals and assisted on two others for VCU this season.

By Nathan Heintschel

A trip from Crookwell, New South Wales Australia to Moon Township, Pennsylvania and Richmond, Virginia covers about 10,400 miles. A few bumps in the road are inevitable when covering that kind of distance.

VCU Field Hockey senior Taleah Scott continues to absorb that road’s imperfections and is enjoying the ride.

The 22-year-old Australian comes from humble beginnings. Roughly two and a half hours outside of Sydney, Crookwell is home to fewer than 3,000 people. The town is not too dissimilar from many small downs in western Virginia. It seems like everyone knows each other, kids can roam free without worrying their parents, and there is no movie theater.

Despite how many times you have to click to zoom in on Google Maps to find Crookwell, the area is well-established on the sports map.

“We’re renowned for sport,” Scott said. “We have Olympians in our town, well-rounded, all-around, cricketers, hockey, soccer, football, rugby leagues.”

Crookwell and neighboring town Goulburn each produced a pair of athletes who competed in the 2012 Olympics in London.

Scott credits her family and Crookwell for her interest in sports. The daughter of Narelle and David Scott chose soccer as her first organized sport. However, her team lost all of its games, and she quickly lost interest. She picked up a field hockey stick around age four and followed the same path as her older sisters Maigan and Kirstie.

Scott played field hockey on club teams throughout high school and earned recognition. She played for the Australian Capital Territory state team in both the U15 and U18 leagues, teams that competed at the National level. Despite her success on the turf, Scott faced a critical decision has her high school career drew to a close.



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Troy Daniels aims for an expanded role in Charlotte this season.

Troy Daniels aims for an expanded role in Charlotte this season.

As of Tuesday, all NBA training camps had opened, which means a couple of former VCU stars are back to work.

For Troy Daniels, training camp won’t be so much about making the Charlotte Hornets’ roster as it is convincing Coach Steve Clifford to expand his role. Daniels, who was traded twice last season, arrived in Charlotte in February and saw action in just 11 games with the team. In his first six weeks with the Hornets, Daniels played in just four games. It wasn’t until the final weeks of the season that Clifford finally called Daniels’ number. Daniels averaged about 26 minutes in the Hornets last four games of the season and knocked down 12-of-26 three-point field goals during that stretch. Daniels topped 15 points three times during that stretch, including a 24-point effort to end the year.

During an interview this summer, Clifford said Daniels would see more action, but how much remains unclear. It’s worth noting the Hornets finished last in the NBA in 3-point shooting (.318) last season. I’m sure Clifford has noticed.

Daniels has been limited early in camp by a strained hamstring, but it’s not expected to linger.

Meanwhile, here’s Troy’s face:




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Kendall Farino been a four-year standout for VCU on the field hockey turf, but her best performances have come off it.

Kendall Farino been a four-year standout for VCU on the field hockey turf, but her best performances have come off it.

RICHMOND, Va. – Kendall Farino couldn’t help herself. At team picture day last fall, she removed the retainer that held her temporary tooth and mugged for her headshot. For the rest of the year, grinning alongside her official team bio was Farino, one tooth short, looking like America’s most cordial hockey enforcer.

“When I’m 80, I’ll think it’s hilarious. I think it’s hilarious now. I’ll have three other [headshots] with a mouth full of teeth, and I thought it would be fun,” says Farino, a senior midfielder on the VCU Field Hockey team. “But mom and dad were not happy.”

It was a small, rare act of rebellion for a player whose reputation is closer a team mom than class clown.

“I’m very type ‘A’, straightforward, follow the rules, do everything I’m told, so it was very off the wall for me,” she says.

In reality, Farino, a genial Virginia Beach native, has been something of a model citizen during her four-year career. Studious, driven and organized, she serves as a team co-captain.

“I think Kendall’s kind of stood out, even before we got her here on campus,” says VCU Head Coach Laura Baker. “She stood out in the way she conducted herself as a 16-, 17-year-old. She was different than most girls we have on campus. She’s always been a very mature young lady, and that’s continued during her four years here.”

An exercise science major, Farino last received a ‘B’ in a class as a senior in high school. Correction: it was a B-plus.

“High school calculus,” she says. “I was pretty mad.”



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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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