By Heather Keller
The Sacred Heart University women’s volleyball team began conference play with a pair of wins on the road over St. Francis Brooklyn and Long Island University (LIU) Brooklyn Sept. 24-25.
Seniors Sarah Krufka, Lea Lieb, redshirt senior Allison Riggs and junior Makayla Dole had strong performances during the weekend of competition in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Playing the Brooklyn teams is always a challenging trip, but the team handled themselves very well,” said head coach Robert Machan.
Going into the season 2-0 in conference play has helped to give players and coaches a positive outlook on the season.
“I think it definitely got morale pretty high for us, especially since we played so well against LIU Brooklyn,” said senior Kiki Robinson. “We haven’t beat them in the four years I’ve been here, so it was pretty exciting.”
This meeting marked the first time the Pioneers have defeated LIU since 2011. LIU finished second in the Northeast Conference (NEC) last season, while the Pioneers placed fourth.
The Pioneers are hopeful that with their strong start to the season, the NEC title is attainable this year, and the win over LIU provided a motivational push for the players.
“I think that one of our goals is to win the NEC and host the tournament,” said senior Maddie Losure. “To start out 2-0 is a step in the right direction.”
Players and coaches said that the focus this season has been on the next task at hand, whether that be practice or a game.
“One of the things coach [Machan] is really implementing into our practices is that we have to worry about the opponent we have coming up next,” said Robinson.
The team plans to work hard each day and rely on the effort they have put in during practices to carry them through the season.
“Our focus is always to keep improving our team play on our side of the net,” said Machan. “We feel that if we execute what we are trying to do and continue to improve in our system play, it does not matter who we play or what the opponent is trying to do.”
Robinson and Losure have noticed a change in the maturity of the Pioneer team from last season. They agreed that while the team is still fun to be a part of this year, there is a lot more accountability and that they are able to rely on one another.
“I think last year we were a very goofy, fun team, but with six graduating seniors this year, I think it has become very real to us that the NEC title is in our grasp,” said
The team will continue conference play facing seven teams in the NEC twice during the season. Machan believes it will be a tight race for the conference, but is confident in his dedicated athletes.
“This is it, it’s time to put work in,” said Louse.