Assistant Sports Editor
The VCU women’s soccer team is full of fresh faces this season, and that goes well beyond the six freshmen on the squad.
Co-head coach Tiffany Sahaydak and her husband Tim bolstered their roster in a big way this offseason, making moves for high-profile recruits, as well as a few promising transfers.
After a mediocre 2010 campaign, the Sahaydaks wanted to revamp their roster, beginning with the backbone of any soccer team: a goalkeeper and a center back. Instead of waiting on a freshman recruit to develop, they filled those holes right away with players who are ready to
jump in from day one.
The new goalkeeper is Kristin Carden, a transfer from Virginia Tech. Carden still has two years of eligibility and has already earned herself the starting job. In two games this season she has allowed just one goal in a loss to N.C. State.
“Carden is going to be key for us,” Tiffany Sahaydak said. “She is very, very good.”
Carol Sanchez will serve as Carden’s last line of defense as the new starting center back. Sanchez transferred to VCU this fall from a university in Costa Rica where she was also a starter on the country’s national team. Sahaydak expects huge dividends from this tandem as they anchor the back end of the Rams’ defense for the next two years.
Beyond Sanchez and Carden, the other two players to watch this season will be freshmen Maren Johansen and Cristin Granados.
Johansen is a scoring-oriented forward with a high soccer IQ. She will be given the opportunity to contribute regularly off the bench, if not as a full-time starter. And that is no small feat for a freshman considering how loaded the Rams’ offense already is.
Granados is a midfielder best known for her playmaking skills in the passing game. Like Johansen, she is expected to help facilitate the offense as a starter in her rookie season.
VCU finished eighth in the CAA last season, but the new additions may prove crucial in pulling out some close games. A defensive-minded approach, paired with a couple new playmakers on offense, make the Rams an intriguing dark horse in the conference.
“In the CAA it’s always going to be a dogfight,” Sahaydak said. “A lot of games are going to be decided by one goal.”
With Carden in goal, the Rams expect more of those one goal games to go their way this season.
“We’re very excited about what’s to come from this team,” Sahaydak said. “I think we’re the underdog, but so was the basketball team.”
Sahaydak said the basketball team’s run serves as motivation for her squad. And while Final Four aspirations may be a little farfetched, her expectations for this season are high.
“I only expect us to be in the final of our conference tournament at the end of this year, and we have the players to get there,” she said.
A conference title would be a major boost to the program, but the road to the postseason will be a long one. In two regular season games so far, the Rams have yet to find the back of the net. They lost 1-0 to N.C. State and tied 0-0 with Elon.
However, they will look to end that scoreless streak against Marshall in their home opener on Aug. 26. The tough competition will continue with several marquee opponents including Villanova and Georgetown in the upcoming weeks as they gear up for conference play.
The road to the CAA tournament begins on Sept. 23 when the Rams open the conference slate against Northeastern.