RICHMOND, Va. – With back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and three straight seasons in the NSCAA Top-25, Head Coach Dave Giffard and the VCU men's soccer program have continued their rise on the national stage.

That rise has helped land eight talented newcomers, who signed their National Letters of Intent this week to join the Rams next fall.

Curtis Kirby (Virginia Beach, Va./Cape Henry), Joseph Haney (Chesapeake, Va./Western Branch), Tyler Stowell (Lumbarton, N.J./Rancocas Valley), Eli Lockaby (Orlando, Fla./Timber Creek), James Ellis (Chesapeake, Va./Western Branch), Hunter Simons (Chesterfield, Va./Clover Hill), Joseph Gonnella (Charlottesville, Va./St. Anne's Belfield) and Joe Rice (Fairfax, Va./Fairfax) will all suit up for the Black & Gold this fall.

"This fall we will lose a large and talented senior class that has done a lot to put VCU Soccer on the map," Giffard said. "I think the group that we have been able to attract for 2014 will allow us to continue our high standards and build upon what the players leaving have laid the foundation for."

The eight newcomers, along with the quartet of student-athletes that joined the Rams this spring, will look to continue to help build upon VCU's recent success under Giffard and his staff, which includes four straight winning seasons for only the third time in the 36 years of the program, the second highest ranking in school history (8th this past fall), 23 all-conference players and nine players who have signed pro contracts.

James Ellis – Chesapeake, Va./Western Branch – Midfield – 5'8'' – 145
  • 4 Star Recruit by Top Drawer Soccer
  • #6 Player in Virginia and #17 in Mid-Atlantic Region
  • 2008-09 US U-14 National Team
  • 2009-10 US U-15 National Team
  • 2008-11 Region I ODP Team
  • 2008-2011 Virginia ODP Team

Coach Giffard on James: "James is a soccer player who also happens to be a very good athlete.  I think he has the tools to play in the midfield for us and perform well in tight spaces as well as having the pace to get separation.  I was struck by his competitiveness in the matches that I have watched him play over the last few years and our time getting to know him has reinforced the qualities that I think will make him successful here."

Joseph Gonnella – Charlottesville, Va./St. Anne's Belfield – Midfield – 5'8'' – 145 

  • 3 Star Recruit by Top Drawer Soccer
  • 2014 RVA-FC NPSL First Team
  • 2013 RVA-FC NPSL Reserve Team
  • Richmond Strikers – U16 and U18 Development Academy Team
  • 2008-10 Virginia ODP Team 

Coach Giffard on Joseph: "Joseph is in the mold of some of my favorite players, he is a box to box link guy who connects the team and has a great engine.  He is a very driven and bright person who I believe will thrive in our environment and his technique and competitiveness fit us perfectly."

Joseph Haney – Chesapeake, Va./Western Branch – Midfield – 5'8'' – 145
  • 4 Star Recruit and Ranked as the 135th best player in the class of 2014 by Top Drawer Soccer
  • #3 Player in Virginia and #10 in Mid-Atlantic Region
  • U16/U18 Virginia Rush Team
  • 2008-11 Virginia ODP Team

Coach Giffard on Joseph: "Joseph's combination of bite and good technique will give him the opportunity to compete for us in the back of midfield.  Another guy who is a fighter and is extremely competitive, he has the potential to do quite well here at VCU."

Curtis Kirby – Virginia Beach, Va./Cape Henry – Midfield – 5'10'' – 150

  • 3 Star Recruit by Top Drawer Soccer
  • Beach FC Soccer Club
  • 2009-14 Virginia ODP 96
  • 2011-14 USYSA Region I Pool
  • 2012-14 USYSA Region I Team
  • 2012-13 First Team All-State

Coach Giffard on Curtis: "Curtis was our first commitment for the class of 2014 and has a great deal of upside.  He hit a growth spurt in the last couple years and has developed from a smaller guy who had to find ways to solve problems with his brain, to a guy who could also get into the physical battles.  I think his best days are ahead of him and can't wait to get started with Curtis in our environment every day."

Eli Lockaby – Orlando, Fla./Timber Creek – Midfield – 5'8" – 145

  • Orlando City Academy U18 Team
  • Disney Showcase Finalist
  • Regional Finalist in 2013
  • 2013 All-Central Florida First Team
  • Super Y Nationals Finalist

Coach Giffard on Eli: "Eli is another player whose best days are ahead of him.  He is extremely competitive, hard working and honest.  He can play anywhere on the field from fullback to forward.  To me outside of his competitiveness and fight, his best quality is his ability to eliminate guys in the final third. Depending upon how he develops in time, I could see Eli in a variety of positions for us."

Joseph Rice – Fairfax, Va./Fairfax – Goalkeeper – 6'3'' – 175

  • 3 Star Recruit by Top Drawer Soccer
  • 2008-10 Virginia ODP Team
  • Annandale Boys and Girls Club Team
  • 2012 Region I Premier League

Coach Giffard on Joseph: "Joe is a quality goalkeeper who has a good frame and a ton of tools to work with.  Our staff was impressed by him at our prospect camp last summer and we believe he could develop into a starting goalkeeper for us before his time is finished."

Hunter Simons – Chesterfield, Va./Clover Hill – Midfield – 5'8" – 145

  • 3 Star Recruit by Top Drawer Soccer
  • Richmond Kickers U-18 Academy
  • 2007-09 – Virginia State ODP Team
  • First-Team All-District at Clover Hill
  • Led Team in Points and assists as a sophomore

Coach Giffard on Hunter: "Hunter is another dynamic midfield player who we first saw at our prospect camp two years ago.  His feet will allow him to compete at a high level for us.  I think he is versatile enough to play either in the midfield or as a fullback."

Tyler Stowell – Lumbarton, N.J./Rancocas Valley – Midfield – 5'7" – 120

  • 4 Star Recruit Ranked as the 110th best player in the class of 2014 by Top Drawer Soccer
  • U-16/U-18 96 Match Fit Academy
  • 2008-10 New Jersey ODP Team
  • 2008-10 Region I ODP Team
  • 2008 US U-14 National Team

Coach Giffard on Tyler: "From the first time I watched Tyler play, I was reminded of a player I used to coach named Scott Caldwell who now plays for the New England Revolution.  He is a smaller guy who has good ideas and good technique.  I think as he steps into our environment at VCU, he could make great gains and end up having a very good college career."