MEN’S SOCCER ROLLS ON

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This is a little late, but great job by VCU Men’s Soccer Friday. The Rams (10-2-4, 6-1-1 A-10) thumped 12th-ranked Xavier 4-1 and have now vaulted into first place in the Atlantic 10 Conference. VCU will try to lock up the No. 1 seed for the A-10 Tournament Friday at Richmond. It’s not that far, come out and cheer the Rams to a win.

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I’ve got to imagine the Rams are ranked again when the NSCAA Coaches Poll comes out later Tuesday. In addition, VCU is making a serious run at an at-large bid to NCAA Tournament. The Rams were 28th in RPI before their win over Xavier, who was 25th, so they’ll get another nice bump.  Hard as it may be to believe, VCU has not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 2004, when it staged a dramatic run to the quarterfinals.

Here’s a quick look at the top of the A-10 race. Note that the Rams own a head-to-head win over Charlotte earlier this season.

Conference  Overall
W L T Pts. W L T Pts.
Charlotte 6 1 1 19 12 2 3 39
VCU 6 1 1 19 10 2 4 34
Saint Louis 6 2 0 18 12 4 0 36
Temple 5 1 2 17 9 5 3 30
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COULD DEFEAT OF CHARLOTTE BE TURNING POINT FOR VCU?

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VCU’s 4-1 win over 2011 National Runner-Up Charlotte Friday is sure to turn a few heads.

RICHMOND, Va. – Shortly after his team celebrated on the pitch in one cheering, chanting, dancing huddled mass, flanked on one side by the VCU Pep Band, horns blaring, and a crowd of students on the other, VCU Soccer Coach Dave Giffard aimed to be a voice of reason.

“It’s a good win and a good result for us,” the Rams’ third-year coach said flatly. “I think what it means to the team is we won the first game in the conference.”

Given the decisiveness VCU’s 4-1 victory Friday night over 13th-ranked Charlotte, the National Runner-Up in 2011, and the emotion that spilled onto the field following the match, could this triumph possibly be distilled into the “just another conference win” category? Charlotte (6-2-2, 0-1 A-10) had lost just once this season and returned the bulk of its College Cup squad from 2011.

Four different players scored goals for the Rams (5-1-3, 1-0 A-10), who attacked the lower third of the field efficiently and aggressively. In the process, VCU earned its first win over a ranked team since 2006 and dealt Charlotte its worst loss in three years.

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RAM TOUGH: REFOCUSED VCU RETURNS TO WIN COLUMN

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Dave Giffard's Rams improved to 6-4-0 overall and 1-1-0 in the CAA Saturday night.

There were a lot of happy faces at Sports Backers Stadium Saturday night following VCU’s got-to-have-it, 1-0 victory over a streaking George Mason squad, but possibly none brighter than that of Marisa Giffard, wife of Rams’ Coach Dave Giffard.

VCU’s recent four-game losing streak was starting to wear thin over at Casa de Giffard. Dave and Marisa began dating while he was an assistant at national powerhouse Akron, and he said during that time, the Zips might’ve lost two games total. This was entirely new territory.

“My wife’s pulling her hair out,” the VCU Coach joked. “She’s like, ‘This is terrible. We’ve got to win. I hate when we lose.’ Like anybody, I’m competitive and I get a little grouchy, my staff gets a little grouchy and you know, I’d prefer not to do that again.”

While a grouchy Giffard may have been no fun at home, it appears to be just what the Rams needed to pull out of a four-game tailspin. Giffard spent that stretch questioning his team’s overall toughness, so he dropped the hammer on his young squad in practice this week. Training sessions were long, grueling challenges of intestinal fortitude.

“We were pretty tough on the guys, and they needed it and they knew they needed it,” Giffard said. “As the week went on, we functioned more and more under extreme fatigue and realized that, you know, you’re not going to die.”

His strategy, a rarity for this point during the season, worked Saturday. VCU matched George Mason’s physicality and controlled the game’s action from the outset. Even when the Patriots ramped up the intensity in the second half, which included two yellow cards, the Rams stayed on course. VCU continually won 50/50 chances it has had trouble earning of late and showed a level of toughness not seen this season.

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