BY JOHN KAYWOOD
Senior Staff Reporter
The Sacred Heart University dance team is back in Daytona Beach, Fla., for this year’s National Collegiate Cheer and Dance Competition. The Pioneers enjoyed a fourth-place finish in the hip-hop category and a seventh-place finish overall in Team Performance during last year’s competition.
The team was optimistic heading into the weekend.
“The team is extremely fired up right now,” said senior Chelsey Currlin. “We have worked so hard this year and are eager to show the judges and the audience.”
The assistant coach, former Sacred Heart dancer and 2014 graduate Reina Van Florcke, mirrored how this team moves in lockstep.
“This team has a bond unlike any other I have coached, and you can feel their passion for these routines and the program,” said Van Florcke. “They have overcome struggles together and are so extremely supportive of each other.”
Van Florcke will take over as head coach next season with Deirdre Eller-Hennessey stepping down and taking on the role of an administrator.
Eller-Hennessey will still have an advising role next season but will not be as hands-on.
“She is more than just a coach to this team and me,” said Van Florcke. “Coaching alongside her for the last four years has been a journey that will forever be unmatched. She is an incredible coach, successful at work, and an amazing mother, and I strive to be like her as I grow older.”
Senior Sara Regan said there are no words that can describe how Eller-Hennessey will be remembered as head coach.
“She has made all of our lives here at Sacred Heart University so special and has made us all feel important,” said Regan.
Eller-Hennessey’s legacy at Sacred Heart includes multiple Top 10 finishes and creating a winning culture. Her two-decade stint has nurtured this program to the point where it is nationally recognized as a major contender.
Living only two miles from campus, Eller-Hennessey has made this school her home.
“There are a lot of emotions. I just think that ultimately we want to make her proud; she deserves so much recognition for the heart instilled in this team,” said senior Kate Li.
At Nationals, the Pioneers placed in the top five in both hip-hop and team performance, fourth and fifth place respectively.
“These are memories that will last a lifetime and I’m blessed with a lot of them,” said Eller-Hennessey. “Every team is special to me but this is the one I graduate with.”
Van Florcke feels fortunate that Eller-Hennessey trusts her in taking over the program.
“I will do everything in my power to make her and this team proud,” said Van Florcke.