VCU (21-8, 13-3 A-10) has seen a 14-win improvement over last season heading into the A-10 tournament, hosted by Duquesne in Pittsburgh. They're the top seed and received a bye to the quaterfinals. They'll face No. 8 seed Saint Joseph's on Friday at 11 a.m. All that with a roster that still has no seniors. Last year's roste featured eight total freshman, and all but one were true freshmen. This year's roster includes three freshman, six sophomores and five juniors. O'Boyle said that one of hte hardest things as a freshman is undeerstanding how much faster and stronger the competition is in college. A much higher percentage of the roster now has that experience. The big difference between last year and this year, though, is the Rams' competitiveness in practice. "We have such a deep team and so well balanced that makes our practices that way," O'Boyle said.
The team was coming off a challenging 2017-18 season, finishing 7-22 overall while fielding a roster that included seven true freshmen and a redshirt freshman, with no seniors, two juniors and four sophomores. This year, that roster makeup has shifted into a group that features, in part, six sophomores and five juniors (with still no seniors). As those young players have matured, a leap has come swiftly. The Rams matched last year's win total on Dec.21 and surpassed it 10 days later. They began Atlantic 10 play 5-0 -- their best start in conference competition since 2009-10. They are now 15-6 overall and 7-1 in A-10 play. When it comes to that identity, the Rams have made defense their calling card. Entering the day Wednesday, the Rams were all alone at the top of the A-10 standings. But they now there's still a long way to go, and are taking things one practice at and one game at a time. O'Boyle said her still young group is still trying to get better.
VCU is ranked second nationally in three defensive categories: scoring defense, field goal percentage defense, and 3-point field goal percentage defense. O'Boyle said that, coming off a tough year, it's about the response. Subsequently, she felt that the Rams had a great response. She saw more competitiveness in practices going back to before the season. Then sophomore guard Taya Robinson, a former Huguenot standout, spoke before the season about the increased energy she saw. This week, Robinson said that she feels the Rams' energy has a lot to do with their defense being better. "But I think it's also just us growing and learning and knowing more about the game," Robinson said. VCU began the season with a 17-point win at William & Mary on Nov. 6. Eight days after that, the team went to Chapel Hill and competed with North Carolina -- it led for much of the first half before falling 59-47.
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