THE TOP 25 STORIES FROM VCU ATHLETICS IN 2011-12 - #16 thru 20
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#16 - Baseball continues its pipeline to the pros
One thing that has been synonymous with the VCU baseball program under the Paul Keyes tenure is preparing players for the next level. The 2012 version was no different with players getting drafted, and other players reaching the pros.
Just last week VCU had two players go in the MLB Amateur Draft, and another sign as a free agent. Junior Blake Hauser was the first to go a draft pick of the Seattle Mariners in the 13th round. That was followed with junior Kyle Haynes going in the 20th round to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The news kept getting better as senior Kyle Pelchy singed a free agent contract last Friday with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Since 1984 the Rams have had 55 players drafted or signed by 25 of the MLB’s 30 teams.
As those former student athletes are starting their careers, other VCU alumni continue to stay on 40-man roster in the Big Leagues. With addition of Cody Eppley to the New York Yankees, the Rams now have four players on 40-man rosters tying them with UVA for most in the state.
Eppley joins, Sean Marshall (Cincinnati Reds), Brandon Inge (Oakland Athletics) and Scott Sizemore (Oakland Athletics) in the majors. The Rams also have currently five players in the minors as well.
#17 - Women's Hoops makes run to WNIT Round of 16
For the fifth straight season the VCU women’s basketball team made a post-season appearance. This year, however, the Rams were not satisfied with just reaching the postseason, and made magical run through the first two rounds of the WNIT.
The Rams were shipped to Bowling Green for the first round. The game was controlled by the Falcons until the final three minutes when seniors Andrea Barbour and Courtney Hurt took over. VCU would rally back in take the lead, but a foul in the back-court sent the Falcons to the line with a chance to win the game with only five seconds left. Jessica Slagel knocked down the two free throws and the Falcons led by 1. Barbour got the ball on the inbounds raced the length of the floor and scored as time expired to lead the Rams to the second round.
The Black and Gold’s second round opponent, St. Joe’s, was a familiar one having played them three straight seasons in the WNIT. The second round game was back and forth, and neither team could win in regulation. After VCU spotted the Hawks a 65-61 lead in overtime, the Rams used a 6-0 run capped off by another Barbour lay-up with 0.7 seconds remaining to send VCU back to the third round of the WNIT.
The Rams run came to an end when they lost at Toledo in the third round of the WNIT. It was the second time in three seasons that Rams had made it to the third round.
#18 - Men's Soccer returns to Top-25
Since his arrival in Richmond, VCU men’s soccer coach Dave Giffard has stressed his goal to return the VCU soccer program back to the national power it once was. In 2011, the Rams displayed plenty of signs that his goal was on the horizon.
The Rams returned to a top 25 national ranking for the first time since 2005. The Rams jumped to a quick 4-0 start to reach as high 16th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/Continental Tires Poll for the week of September 6th.
The following week the Rams dropped four spots to number 20, but made the national poll two consecutive weeks.
With a good core of the 2011 team back in 2012, Giffard and the men’s soccer team are poised for another run to the Top-25, and a run for the A-10 crown.
#19 - Volleyball upsets its way to the CAA Championship
If there's one thing that has been clear in recent memory, it's that the VCU volleyball program knows how to play and win come conference tournament time. That lesson was on display yet again in 2011 when the Ram make a run at the CAA Championship as the sixth seed in the conference tournament.
VCU rolled off victories in six of their final seven regular-season matches to earn the final spot in the CAA Tournament and a first-round match-up against the third-seeded Tigers of Towson. The Rams did what they always did, pulling out a five-set thriller, 25-12, 25-22, 24-26, 18-25, 15-7 and set up a date with second-seeded Northeastern.
The talented Huskies could not stop VCU's magic as the Black & Gold continued to roll with another five-set thriller, 23-25, 25-15, 20-25, 25-20, 15-12. The victory earned the Rams their fourth CAA Championship match appearance in the past seven years.
VCU's magic nearly turned into a conference title as they took top-seeded Delaware, who had dominated the conference all year long, to five sets, but eventual fell, 24-26, 25-17, 15-25, 25-18, 15-9.
#20 - Simmons, Crew Bike Across America for long-time
What makes Ram Nation so great are the 270-plus student-athletes that wear the Black & Gold proudly and are incredible ambassadors for VCU. Need an example? Look no further than men's track & field and cross country runner Tyler Simmons.
Simmons and two of his friends are currently in the middle of the country, nearing the halfway point of their Bike Across America journey.
Chris Kowalczyk of Around the Horns did a feature on the journey earlier this year, take a minute a read about the incredible story behind Bike Across America.
Support is still needed for Simmons and his friends, so please check out the Ricky Rides Again site for your chance to donate to a great cause.
Check out more of the Top 25 Countdown: