Kaitlyn Fulmore, Contributing Writer
The volleyball coaching staff has been revamped once again for a second straight season — this time, with familiar faces to the program.
Former VCU setter Cecilia Blanchard (née Aragao) has returned as a graduate assistant, a position previously held by newly appointed assistant coach Aaron Gordon.
Head coach Jody Rogers said that making the coaching decisions was easy.
“When you’re looking for assistants you want them to be highly driven and self-motivated, and bring positive energy and high energy into the office, into the gym,” Rogers said. “Both of these two people have high levels of that.”
Gordon joined the coaching staff last year as a graduate assistant. Before VCU, Gordon spent four years as a student manager for the University of Florida.
“He brought so much energy and experience with coaching the girls,” Rogers said. “It was easy for me to elevate him because he works so hard, and he wanted to get there.”
After one season of working with the team, Gordon is excited to have a larger role on the staff.
“I think the biggest thing is having a stronger role on the court from a coaching standpoint,” Gordon said. “As a G.A., I was really focused on filling in the holes, but now I can take that stronger role in terms of leading drills, and building relationships with the athletes.”
Gordon works alongside fellow assistant coach Kevin Maureen Campbell, who was brought on to the coaching staff March of 2020. Campbell agreed with Rogers that promoting Gordon was an easy choice.
“We all are very competitive, but we all want the best for each other, so that’s why we work well together.” — Jody Rogers
“Aaron proved himself every day, it was a no brainer for our entire program,” Campbell said. “Aaron comes from a high level of experience, he’s been in the gym with high-level programs. He knows how to do the work and is a great glue to our program.”
Blanchard returns to VCU to take over Gordon’s previous position as a graduate assistant after playing professionally in Europe, for Calcit Volley in Slovenia and Quimper Volley 29 in France.
“When you go pro it’s a different level,” Blanchard said. “Every season I’m adapting to a coach and I’m learning what I like and don’t like from that coach, so I think it’s a more mature volleyball view.”
Rogers coached Blanchard from 2013-14. During her four years at VCU, Blanchard racked up 3,392 assists, ranking third on the Rams’ all-time list, and had a total of 370 blocks, ranking sixth on the Rams’ all-time list.
“She was a hard worker, even as a student-athlete,” Rogers said. “I was excited because I knew the energy she brought as a player was going to translate to her being a G.A.”
The shift from being on the court to being on the sidelines is both challenging and exciting, according to Blanchard.
“When you’re playing you get caught in that ‘practice, practice, practice,’” Blanchard said. “But when you’re coaching and you see them getting better, it is really exciting.”
Since Rogers took over as head coach in 2013, she’s led the team to three consecutive Atlantic 10 championship victories, received the A-10 Conference Coach of the Year title twice, and currently is 162-76 in eight seasons.
With COVID-19 restrictions loosening, and fans being allowed back in the stands, Rogers said the staff is excited for the upcoming season — especially now that masks are no longer required for the athletes during play.
The Rams kicked off their season at the JMU Invitational on Aug 27-29 beating Illinois State and sweeping JMU. The team ended the weekend 2-1 after a tough 3-1 loss to High Point. The following week the Rams finished 2-1 at the Four Points Tallahassee Seminole Volleyball Invitational, beating Tulane and Samford and losing to Florida State.
“We all are type A,” Rogers said. “We all are very competitive, but we all want the best for each other, so that’s why we work well together.”