By Kendall Gregory
he Sacred Heart University’s women’s volleyball team finished their 2016 season with an NEC tournament appearance. The team captured the Northeast Conference (NEC) Regular Season Championship after a win over Bryant University on Nov. 12. They finished conference play with a 13-1 record. Sacred Heart was also given the number one seed, as well as hosting rights, for the playoff tournament.
The NEC Tournament was played on Nov. 19-20. In the finals matchup, Sacred Heart lost to number two Long Island University-Brooklyn in five sets. The team finished 22-8 overall.
“The women worked very hard this year in the weight room and on the court to become the best team they could be this year,” said Coach Rob Machan. “Because of our conditioning, and our commitment to finishing strong, we put together a very good second half of the season.”
Despite not winning the NEC title, players are happy with the team’s performance.
“I couldn’t be prouder of how this season went,” said senior Maddie Losure. “It was rough to end on a loss, but that’s how all seasons end except for one team in the nation. Overall, it was all we have been working for.”
Seniors Sarah Krufka and Ana Gonzalez were recognized for their season performances. Krufka was named NEC Women’s Volleyball Player of the Year for the second year in a row. Gonzalez was picked as the NEC Libero of the Year.
“I honestly couldn’t have gotten this award without all of my teammates and, for that, I thank them,” said Krufka. “But getting this award was probably one of my top goals coming into this season and I’m really excited about it.”
Machan was also recognized for his coaching performance this season. He was named NEC Coach of the Year for the third time in his coaching career.
Along with NEC honors, two players broke Sacred Heart records this season.
Krufka now holds the record for most career kills, passing Tricia Moore. She broke the record at the end of October. Moore, who previously held it with 1,447 kills, played for the Pioneers from 1996-99.
“Holding the career kills record is something I never thought would happen. I think it is pretty awesome that my name is up there in those record books and hopefully will stay there for a long time,” said Krufka.
Gonzalez broke the record for most career aces on Nov. 5 while playing Farleigh
Younger players on the team have learned a lot from playing everyday with their team leaders.
“Sarah is one of the reasons why I came to Sacred Heart,” said junior Makayla Dole. “I have been able to become a better player from her. She motivates and pushes me constantly in everything I do.”
Machan will build off of the programs foundation and the past season to get ready for next season. He believes that with the mix of returning players, incoming recruits, and their off-season workout plan, the team will have a successful 2017 season.
The team will graduate a handful of seniors in May, but it does not seem as though this will hinder the team’s success going forward.
“What we do is hard, so try to keep it light, stay together, and on that twentieth sprint of the morning, remember why you do it,” said Losure. “If you didn’t realize it already, you don’t just have a team, you have a family to support you and pick you up when you need it the most.”