For the first time since 2016, the Sacred Heart women’s soccer team has advanced to the Northeast Conference (NEC) tournament. They earned the 4th seed following a loss on Nov. 4 to Central Connecticut State (CCSU).
In addition to the loss, they earned a rematch with the victors as CCSU is the #1 seed. The Pioneers will travel to New Britain to face the Blue Devils on Nov. 8, with the winner of the game facing the winner of #2 Fairleigh Dickinson and #3 Bryant on Nov. 10 with the conference championship on the line and a chance to earn a berth to the NCAA women’s soccer tournament.
A berth in the conference tournament was unexpected for second year head coach Matt Micros’ squad. After all, the Pioneers doubled their conference wins from last year to secure their postseason berth.
A huge part of an unexpected successful season was the immediate impact of freshman M/F Michelle Clarkin. She is the point leader for the Pioneers with 17 (7 goals, 3 assists). She also had started every game for the Pioneers until the recent meeting with CCSU on Nov. 4.
“The team has been super supportive throughout the entire year. We work really well together and I couldn’t have done it without my team,” Clarkin said of her accolades on the field.
Clarkin also has noticed the hard work of her teammates and knows it is going to take hard work and effort to pull off an upset on Friday night. Central Connecticut State finished undefeated in NEC play with a record of 6-0-3.
Forward Azria Malloy is another freshman who has burst onto the scene for the Pioneers this season. In addition to being third in points for the team with 3 goals and 2 assists, she has also scored 2 game winning goals this season, against Saint Peter’s and Saint Francis Brooklyn respectively. She has won NEC player of the week twice and player of the week once.
To round out the group of impact freshman, Elyssa Kipperman has started all but one game in goal. Meadow Mancini is the second leading goal scorer with four and Anna Ludkiewicz won NEC rookie of the week earlier on this season.
While the pre-season polls picked SHU to finish 6th in the conference this season, Malloy says Coach Micros set his goals despite what people thought of his Pioneers squad.
“We had three goals going into the season. Have a winning record, make the tournament, and win the tournament, ” Malloy said.
The team has beaten all the odds and is now two games away from accomplishing all three of their goals they set out for at the beginning of the season. However, they must first put their effort and preparation into their semi-final matchup with the Blue Devils on Friday.
“The coaches have been motivating us for it,” said Clarkin of their Nov. 8 semi-final game. “I just know the girls are really excited for this game,”
“Just work hard this week,” said Malloy.