Assistant Sports Editor
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As Kristin Carden passed around a freshly baked pie after practice on Tuesday afternoon, she spoke to the team about what it means to stay humble despite their current eight-game unbeaten streak.
Each player ate a slice of the pie and listened patiently to what the junior goalkeeper in her first season with VCU had to say. Carden got the idea of making a “humble pie” from a former coach, who brought one to practice after a big win.
“It’s just a treat for our accomplishments, and it’s also supposed to be a reminder,” Carden said. “Everyone eats a piece, and it makes you humble, so it’s mostly just a treat, but it’s supposed to make a point about staying humble and saying that we’re on our way, but we’re not where we want to be yet.”
VCU went 2-8-1 in non-conference play and simply wasn’t seeing results for the first half of the season but has clearly turned things around. After losing their first two CAA matches, Carden and the Rams have gone 5-0-3 in their previous eight – all of which have been against conference opponents. Carden said it’s a matter of “peaking at the right time” while co-head coach Tiffany Sahaydak said it has been all about sticking with what they believe in.
“My philosophy is when people aren’t getting the instant gratification, you tend to change things quickly because you think it’s not working,” said Sahaydak. “But if you talk to a champion, they really believe in what they’re doing, and they stick to it, while other people will start changing things, and they change every week. All we’ve done is stay with what we believe in, and a lot of it is the attitude.”
The team’s most recent victory came against previously unbeaten William & Mary on Sunday afternoon, a game that VCU won 1-0. Coming in, the Tribe were 9-0 in the CAA but thanks to a shutout by Carden and an early goal by sophomore Courtney Conrad, they left Richmond with their first loss.
“It was scrappy; it was a fight,” Carden said. “We outworked them in the end and got the result that we wanted. It shows that everyone committed to it, and that’s what happens with this team. When we commit to it, we get it.”
Carden’s shutout was her eighth of the season and sixth in VCU’s past eight games. And in the two matches in which she didn’t record a shutout in that stretch, she allowed just one goal. But as big of a part as she and the defense have played in the turnaround, the offense has been just as crucial.
Conrad and Cristin Granados have both been on a tear recently, and the offense is producing goals against even the toughest back fours in the CAA. Just two days before outlasting William & Mary, they peppered Old Dominion with 13 shots en route to a 4-1 thrashing.
The Rams have just one regular season game left before the postseason begins. They host James Madison on Friday night which will also be Senior Night. It’s also an important game when it comes to playoff logistics. A win guarantees the second seed in the CAA Tournament, which means a bye in the first round. The Rams have already clinched a spot in the tournament, something they have not achieved since the 2007 season, which was Tim and Tiffany Sahaydak’s first season as co-head coaches.
But despite all the recent success, Sahaydak echoed her goalkeeper’s point that they really have nothing to celebrate yet.
“We haven’t achieved our goals yet,” said Sahaydak. “Our goal is to win the conference championship. You can’t really get too high until you’ve achieved your goal, and we’re not there yet. We’re on the right track, but we’re not there yet so we can’t celebrate yet. And I don’t think that they are; this team is very disciplined.”
Photos by Kyle Laferriere