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RICHMOND, Va. – With the 2011-12 athletic calendar complete for VCU, we here at VCUathletics.com thought we would try to recap what was a year full of thrills, excitement and another year of growth for the movement known as Ram Nation.
After a long debate, some wrestling matches and name-calling, our crew came up with the top-25 stories from VCU Athletics in 2011-12, which we will unveil one-by-one of the course of the next 25 business days (Monday-Friday).
If you have any thoughts or comments, our Twitter handle is @VCUAthletics, we’d love to hear from you.
Today, we look at #6 on our countdown.
#6 - Tennis programs enjoy "Super Sunday" with two
titles in matter of hours
Championship Sunday for CAA Tennis has long been a part of the VCU tradition. The Rams have usually always dominated their conference opponents when it mattered the most, but only three times had the both Black & Gold programs captured the conference title on the same day.
Make it four after the 2012 spring season as the Rams took care of business, winning the championships on both the men's and women's side in the matter of hours on April 22nd on the campus of Old Dominion.
The men's squad got things started early with a manhandling of UNC Wilmington in their final, 4-0. The match was over before most of the fans could even get settled in their seats thanks to a quick doubles point victory and three straight set wins on the singles courts. It was VCU's 13th title in their 17 years in the CAA.
The women's squad, who battled injuries and adversity all year long, showed their heart throughout a knock-down, dragout battle with Georgia State. In the end, freshman Alena Gerasimova fought through an injury to win the decisive singles match and give the Rams their fourth CAA title in the past nine years.
Both teams went on to the NCAA Tournament, the women's team made their 13th NCAA Tournament showing, while the men's squad reached the NCAA postseason for the 19th time in program history.
#7 - Rams set school-record with three reaching NCAA East
Athletically, the goal of every student-athlete is to compete for an NCAA Championship. In order to do that, you must reach the postseason events in their respective sports. In track & field, it begins with the preliminary rounds in both the East and West Region.
It's not easy to reach the prelims taking the top 48 in each event in each region. Reaching that round in three events is even more difficult and had never been done before at VCU, until this spring.
That's exactly what happened with Kiara Porter (400m), Jaleesa Williams (shot put) and the 4x100 meter relay earning a shot to compete on the grand stage.
Porter became the first VCU women's track freshman to reach the NCAA postseason event, entering the preliminary rounds ranked 18th in the 400-meter dash with a season-best time of 53.24. Williams marked the second straight year that a thrower reached the postseason, ranking 35th in the discus at 49.01 meters.
The 4x100 meter relay squad is made up of Porter, classmate Alexis Stroman, senior Jazlynn Finney and junior Dionna Hayes. The quartet enter the prelims 16th in the East with a season-best time of 45.20.
After not having multiple NCAA participants in nearly 15 years, the women's squad has now accomplished it in back-to-back seasons after Quina Fortune and Julia Anyaugo both reached the East Preliminary Round last year.
#8 - Student-Athletes post record-breaking
semester in the classroom
Each year, new and higher expectations are given to the 275 student-athletes that make up Ram Nation. Those student-athletes continue to not only meet those expectations, but exceed them as that group posted a record-breaking spring semester in the classroom.
During the 2012 spring semester, a record-high of 56.8% of the student-athletes earned a spot on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll, which recognizes students with a 3.0 grade-point-average or higher. Over 50 of those earned Dean’s List accolades (3.5 GPA or higher), which is over 20% of the student-athletes that make up Ram Nation.
“As our university and athletic department continue to evolve, greater expectations and standards are instilled on our student-athletes. Semester after semester they continue to not only meet those expectations, but surpass them,” Assoc. Athletic Director and Associate Dean for Student Services Sofia Hiort-Wright said. “We had yet another record-breaking academic semester and knowing the type of student-athletes that continue to join our athletic department, I fully expect this trend to continue.”
Two particular programs enjoyed great success with the field hockey team placing 18 of their 20 student-athletes on the AD’s Honor Roll, while the men’s basketball team saw eight of their 13 players earn AD Honor Roll status.
#9 - Sellout streak reaches 18, packed houses all year long
The Ram Nation movement reached new heights in 2011-12 with VCU's sellout streak for its men's basketball team reaching 18 games.
Each home game during the 2011-12 campaign had the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center jammed with a sea of Black & Gold. Fourteen times the Rams played at the Siegel Center, 14 times there was a sell-out crowd in attendance to root on VCU.
VCU was just one of five schools in the country to sell out each one of their home games, joined by Duke, Kansas, Michigan State and Gonzaga.
The excitement hasn't dipped during the offseason with over 800 new season tickets sold for the upcoming 2012-13 season.
With a new conference and a slate full of highly-talented teams coming to Richmond next year, the sellout streak looks primed to stay alive and well.
#10 - Smart stiff arms wooers, remains at VCU
With many other universities circling like vultures over VCU's Monroe Park Campus in attempts to woe VCU men's basketball Head Coach Shaka Smart away from Ram Nation, Smart announced on March 21 that he would remain with the Black & Gold and was not pursuing any coaching offers.
"I am very grateful for the support and belief in the coaching staff and basketball program that comes from the very top of our university's leadership -- President Rao, Athletic Director Norwood Teague and the VCU Board of Visitors – as well as our phenomenal fans," Smart said. "There are great things to accomplish at VCU and I'm looking forward to building on the successes of our program and university."
After VCU's historic run to the Final Four in 2011, this season
Smart and his staff led one of the youngest teams in the country to
a school record 29 wins and the 2012 Colonial Athletic Association
Championship. Backing the Rams all year long was a fan base that
packed the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center
for every game, making VCU one of only five NCAA teams to sell out
every home game this season.
Smart has led the Black and Gold to 84 wins, the second most in the first three years of any head coach in NCAA history. He has led the Rams to two NCAA Tournaments and has helped bolster VCU's national reputation with a total of 57 games being televised over the past two seasons.