A Check In on the Reigning NEC Women’s Basketball Champs

To start off this season, the Sacred Heart women’s basketball team is 4-4. Through their first eight games last year, they were 1-7.

Despite that slow start last year, the Pioneers went on to win the Northeast Conference (NEC) Championship and make their way into the NCAA tournament. This season, they were picked to finish first in the NEC again.

“We’re building on a lot of returning strengths from last year,” said Head Coach Jessica Mannetti. “Our fight was our biggest strength and I think it still is. We’re very, very, very relentless in our pursuit of team success.”

Mannetti, who holds a career record of 107-71 in the NEC, has seen a few different teams in her tenure at Sacred Heart. She spoke on how this year’s team is different from last year’s historic team; who was the first team in SHU women’s basketball history to make and win a game in the NCAA tournament.

“I think that the biggest difference is even though the outside wants to put a lot of pressure on you, the perspective has changed,” said Mannetti. “I think we have a maturity on our team that allows us to stay very grounded like we haven’t done anything yet.”

In addition to Mannetti’s presence, a large part of the reason the Pioneers were favored to win the NEC again has to do with the return of many of their key players; one being Ny’Ceara Pryor, a sophomore guard from Baltimore, Md.

Pryor, on top of being the first player in league history to win Defensive Player of the Year, Player of the Year, and Rookie of the Year all in one season, has just claimed her first Player of the Week award this season. However, these accolades are not the ones Pryor worries about.

“I just care about the team side,” said Pryor. “Like I told my family and friends, accolades are going to come, but I just want to win. Accolades don’t matter if we don’t win, if we don’t get that NEC championship.”

Another key returner to this year’s lineup is Amelia Wood. The sophomore from Wynantskill, N.Y. was a member of the NEC All- Rookie Team last year, as well as leading the Pioneers in three-point percentage.

“Coming in this year, everyone’s going to give us their biggest game,” said Wood. “We just have to come in ready. We love the competition; we love the pressure on us for this year.”

The Pioneers will be back in action December 6 at 7 p.m. to take on NJIT in the William H. Pitt Center.

Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.

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