The opening game in the Spider men’s basketball 2011–12 home season was marked with not one but two poignant moments.
First, members of the 2011 team received commemorative rings marking their appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16 from members of the 1988 team, the first squad in University history to make it that far in the tournament.
But then, the 2011 hoopsters turned around and awarded rings to their counterparts from 1988. As Dick Tarrant, the coach of the 1988 team, observed, rings were not typically awarded to college teams in the 1980s. Watches were the commonly awarded souvenir, and the Spiders collected plenty of those. Honoring current coach Chris Mooney and his team, Tarrant went down on a knee as he handed Mooney his Sweet 16 ring.
When he was introduced as the new Spiders head football coach on December 6 of last year, Danny Rocco (above) said the University’s reputation for academic excellence factored heavily in his decision to take the job. One of the first orders of business, he said, was to talk to his players and tell them to “do well in school and do well on your tests.”
Rocco joined Richmond after six seasons as head coach at Liberty University, where he was 47-20 overall and 26-5 in the Big South Conference. He was conference Coach of the Year for three seasons. His coaching career includes a stint as an assistant with the New York Jets and college assistant stops at Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Boston College, Tulsa, Colorado, and Wake Forest. He is a 1984 graduate of Wake Forest University.
Rocco assembled a staff that mixes veterans of the Spiders staff along with colleagues from Liberty who moved to Richmond with him. The former group, he said “has a working knowledge of the University and how to recruit to the University.” The second group brings “a working understanding of our philosophies in terms of how we operate, our expectations, our systems,” Rocco said. The team gained further expertise in January when Fontel Mines, who was a tight end for three years with the Chicago Bears, was named wide receivers coach.
As he puts his mark on the Spiders’ program, Rocco announced in January that redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Strauss had transferred to Richmond from the University of Virginia. In February, Rocco announced the signing of 15 student athletes, including eight offensive and seven defensive recruits. “We’re really excited about the group in its entirety,” Rocco said. “We went out and addressed some of the needs that we had here and I truly see this as the beginning of a new era of Richmond football.”
Notably missing from the ceremony were the five seniors from the 2011 Sweet 16 team. Kevin Anderson, Justin Harper, and Kevin Smith were playing professionally overseas. Dan Geriot and Kevin Hovde were on the coaching staffs of Ivy League teams. Harper would later sign with the NBA’s Orlando Magic after the league’s lockout was resolved.
Anderson was in line for another celebration a few weeks later when the University unveiled a banner in his honor in the Robins Center. The take-charge guard joins Johnny Newman and Warren Mills as the only men’s basketball players honored with banners.
The Richmond women’s basketball team rolls on even without Brittani Shells. The superstar graduated last May—finishing her career as the program’s second all-time scorer, leader in steals, and seventh best in assists—and now plays professionally in Israel. Other players have now stepped up, though, and with a strong team effort, coach Michael Shafer’s Spiders won 23 of their first 31 games in the 2011–12 season. Three Spiders—senior Abby Oliver, sophomore Genevieve Okoro, and redshirt junior Rachael Bilney—all often score in double figures, and a rotating cast of other players also regularly produces notable results through standout efforts.
The 2011 women’s soccer Spiders, led by sophomore star Becca Wann, rolled to a 13-5-3 overall mark and a 7-1-1 Atlantic 10 record. The 13 wins are the team’s highest total since 2002, and the seven conference victories are a program best. In the Atlantic 10 tournament semifinals, Richmond lost 2-0 to eventual champ Dayton.
Wann was named a first-team All American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, only the second in Spider women’s soccer history to earn that accolade. She was A-10 Offensive Player of the Year, the first Spider ever to win that honor, following her selection as the league’s 2010 Rookie of the Year. Wann also was named to the Virginia Sports Information Directors’ first team. She ranked 13th in the nation in goals (15), 17th in points (36), and fourth in game-winning goals (7).
The seven game-winners set a single-season Spider record, and her two-season total of 10 game-winning goals ranks her second all-time in the program. Wann also plays Spider women’s basketball.
A young 2011 Spider men’s soccer team finished strong and looks poised to have a standout 2012 season. The team struggled early but caught fire down the stretch, ending the year with three straight Atlantic 10 conference wins to finish 5-12-1 overall and 4-5 in A-10 play.
Junior midfielder Houston Oldham, a business administration major, was named to the Academic All-Conference team. He was a big part of Richmond’s strong finish, scoring four of his five goals in the last four games, including the goal in the 1-0 win over St. Bonaventure in the season finale. Freshman forward Timmy Albright made the league’s All-Rookie squad, turning in a team-best 12 points.
Coach Clint Peay’s team, which played to a 1-1 tie with nationally ranked North Carolina State, loses only two seniors to graduation, Ben Brewster and Jayson Perez. The returning players scored all but one of the team’s 2011 goals and delivered all but one of its assists.
Richmond Athletics and leading technology service provider NeuLion have launched the Spider Mobile iPhone and iPod Touch mobile app, available in the iTunes App Store. They join the Android Spider Mobile App and the Spider Mobile website as ways for fans to access the latest Spider sports news, schedules and results, scores, rosters, photos, stats, and more. Fans can upgrade to a premium app to watch on-demand video and listen to live audio.
Visit Spiders on the Web — RichmondSpiders.com