Take a new coaching staff mixed with 18 new players on a team that finished 10th in the Colonial Athletic Association in 2009 and it sounds like a recipe for disaster. Yet for VCU Men's Soccer, it's been the exact opposite.

Currently sitting in second place in the CAA, and riding a nine-match unbeaten streak, the Rams have put the clamps down on their opponents' attack. VCU is second place in the conference in goals allowed and tied for first in shutouts at five. Perhaps a more telling defensive stat is VCU is 11th in saves. Efficient defensive stats resulting in a low amount of saves speaks to the quality of play by the VCU backline, which is led by senior co-captain Thomas Hupper (Olpe, Germany).

"The key is that we're disciplined, and we know our roles," Hupper noted.

The senior co-captain also attributes part of the unit's success to a concerted effort in scouting, anticipating plays and remaining disciplined. This mantra is instilled on the team by first year Head Coach Dave Giffard.

"Coach (Giffard) wants one-hundred percent from everyone. Everyone defends together and everyone plays offense together, and that's our key concept to playing so well," continued Hupper. "Coaches always tell us of their expectations for offense and for defense. We defend as a team. In the past it was tough because it felt like eleven individuals out there playing. Now we are on a path that the coaches tell us. We want to win every game, and we have goals for every game."

While goalkeeper Gabriel Rodriguez hasn't seen a lot of shots come his way, he's been lights out in goal for the Rams. Rodriguez has posted five shutouts this season. He's earned the respect of his fellow Rams. Hupper describes his goalie as quiet at times, but shows great reflexes on shots, especially on balls deflected in the box.

The Rams have eight matches remaining, and they have nicely positioned themselves to continue their winning ways. The coaching staff has given the team the vision, and the first steps have been taken. If defense wins championships, then VCU getting defensive is essential to their game.

written by VCU Athletics Communication Graduate Assistant Matt Ensor