RICHMOND, Va. – It doesn't take long to realize fourth-year head coach Dave Giffard has a master plan.
His blueprint for turning the men's soccer program back into a national contender is right on schedule as VCU is ranked No. 8 in the latest NSCAA poll, its highest mark since finishing seventh after a NCAA Quarterfinal appearance in 2004.
VCU, which moved up 11 spots in this week's poll, is 3-0-1 in its last four matches, including back-to-back shutouts at No. 7 Akron and against 2012 NCAA Tournament participant Niagara. The Rams also knocked off No. 13 Maryland on the road, and battled ninth-ranked New Mexico to a 1-1 draw during that stretch.
Even more impressive, Giffard's Rams, who are 5-1-1 against ranked opponents the last two seasons, are having this success despite playing arguably the most challenging non-conference schedule in the country this fall as all 11 opponents qualified for the NCAA Tournament a year ago. Eight were also ranked in the preseason Top 25.
The Rams have come a long way in three short years as Giffard inherited a program that won just five games in 2009, while finishing ninth or worse in conference play in three of the previous four seasons. Fast-forward to 2013 and VCU is back on the national stage with its first Top 10 ranking in nearly a decade.