PLAYER TO WATCH: VCU WOMEN'S SOCCER'S TARYN CRESSY

If you watch VCU midfielder Taryn Cressy on the soccer pitch, you'll see a player who is both vocal and determined. Cressy, a senior, has been a playmaker on both sides of the ball during her VCU career, and that makes her an intriguing player to watch this season for the Rams.

Last season, Cressy was a critical component of a VCU team that came within a win of an Atlantic 10 title. In the A-10 semifinal against Dayton, VCU rallied from down a goal at the half to force overtime. After two overtime periods couldn't decide a winner, VCU called on Cressy to lead off the shootout. She connected, and the Rams ended up with the win. It was a big moment the Rams and Cressy, one that showed a grace under pressure. More moments like that could be on the way in 2013.

Much has changed since the end of last season. There's a new coaching staff, and the Rams will have to replace some critical players on the field. But those changes pave the way for players like Cressy to have a greater impact.

A native of Boise, Idaho, Cressy steps into the role of team captain in 2013. She'll be asked to lead both vocally and by example.  VCU Soccer Coach Lindsey Vanderspiegel says Cressy "plays an important role as a leader," and, "helped lead captain's practices" to facilitate the transition between coaching staffs.

Vanderspiegel says she loves Cressy's passion and desire to win on the field, and is giving her senior a plethora of responsibilities on the field.  For example, in VCU's match against North Carolina on Aug. 25, Cressy was given the challenge of marking the Tarheels' Crystal Dunn, a member of the United States' U-20 national team.  Vanderspiegel praised her effort, and will continue to rely on Cressy in similar situations.

On the offensive side of the ball, Cressy is a playmaker. According to Vanderspiegel, one of Cressy's strengths is her vision on the field, which couples well with her patience in the attack. Cressy enjoys being a distributor, and relishes the opportunity to set up her teammates for scoring chances. She also believes the Rams' tough early schedule, which also included a ranked Virginia squad, will pay dividends for VCU.

"It was an eye-opening experience to play against some of the top teams in the country over the past few games," Cressy said.

Cressy cites the play of Carli Lloyd, a center midfielder on the U.S. National Team as a source of personal inspiration.

"She was an underdog for a while who made a huge impact when she was given the opportunity," says Cressy. "Regardless of the situation, she has to make an impact."

Like Lloyd for the U.S. National squad, Cressy will wear a lot of hats as center midfielder for the Rams, and have an opportunity to be highly influential on the pitch. Cressy's 2013 campaign is already off to a good start, as she sparked the Rams to their first win of the season, a 2-1 victory over Saint Francis (Pa.) on Aug. 30, with a second-half goal.

The Rams have reached their conference championship match two straight years, but haven't been able to bring home a title. Cressy aims to change that in 2013. If VCU hopes to capture a conference championship - and reach its first NCAA Tournament since 2005 in the process - Cressy will likely need to play a major role. But from what Vanderspiegel has seen, Cressy is up to it.

"Taryn competes and gets after it in practice," she says of her captain. "She takes both wins and losses to heart."  

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