With a 12-2 record in Northeast Conference (NEC) play, the Sacred Heart University women’s volleyball team was able to capture the NEC regular season title.
Even though they still had two more matches to play, the Pioneers captured this title following their win against Stonehill College on Nov. 5.
“We start each season with the expectation of competing for a conference championship,” said Head Coach Rob Machan. “We have a very strong group of players who know how to work and expect success.”
For a team that was projected to finish first in the conference in the preseason poll, this achievement is a summation of a regular season of hard work for the Pioneers.
“I’m not surprised, but I’m proud,” said senior outside hitter Jasmine Rogers.
Rogers is tied for second on the team in kills with 231.
This has been a record-breaking year in many ways for the team.
“Sarah Ciszek is having a career year,” said Machan. “She has been player of the week a record nine times this year.”
The four-time NEC Setter of the Year, graduate student Sarah Ciszek is only the second four-time setter of the year in NEC history and is primed to win for a record fifth year in a row. With nine NEC Player of the Week awards this season and 24 for her career, she has won that award more times than any other player in NEC history.
In their NEC regular season title clinching game against Stonehill, Rogers led the team with 12 kills. Ciszek was also a main contributor that day, posting 39 assists.
“Every win we earn is a team win,” said Rogers. “We played our game like we always try to do against a good opponent, and we were able to come out on top.”
With some injuries early on in the season, the women did not let that stop them from competing hard.
“We faced some unfortunate injuries in the preseason, so we had to have people step into roles that they’re not used to,” said Rogers. “It has been a grind, but everybody on our team is ready to step in when called upon, and it has shown how deep our team really runs. We practice hard so that we are always prepared for these moments.”
Despite capturing the NEC regular season title a week earlier, the Pioneers fell to Saint Francis University on Nov. 12 in their regular season finale after sweeping Fairleigh Dickinson University a day earlier.
Since they are the NEC regular season champions, Sacred Heart has the advantage of hosting the tournament on their home court in the William H. Pitt Center.
“I am looking forward to protecting our home court. We have not hosted in my four years here, so I am excited to play in front of our fans and families,” said Rogers. “Home court advantage has been something we have been striving for all season long.”
Sacred Heart will look to take advantage of having the home court behind them as they take on Long Island University in the NEC Semifinals on Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. Should they win, they will take on the winner of SFU/FDU in the NEC Championship on Nov. 19 at 7 p.m.
“It is always great to be able to play in front of our home crowd,” said Machan. “We appreciate the wonderful support we receive from everyone at SHU and in the volleyball community.”
Sacred Heart University Athletics contributed to this article.