Kingpins of the NEC

With their win over Long Island University (LIU) on March 26, the Sacred Heart women’s bowling team has won their fifth Northeast Conference (NEC) Championship. With the win, they have automatically qualified into the NCAA tournament for the eighth time in school history.

“This year has been very up and down,” Head Coach Becky Kregling said. “We finished at the bottom of a lot of tournaments, but then we finished high and had great Sundays.”

Kregling has been at the helm of the Sacred Heart bowling program since its inception back in 1993. Now, on top of leading her team to the NEC title, she was named NEC Coach of the Year for the fifth time. 

The Pioneers triumph in the NEC Championship culminated what has been a very lengthy season. Their season started on Oct. 23 and they have gone 11 consecutive weeks either practicing or competing.

“I’m a veteran, I’ve been on the team for about five years, but eleven weeks in a row is the longest I’ve gone at once,” said graduate student Colby Jones.

Jones, who was a Second-Team All-NEC member, along with junior Hannah Manetta, who was named First-Team All-NEC, were two of the driving forces behind the Pioneers successes this season. Manetta led the team with 111 strikes.

“The year as a team has been up and down because we’re a pretty young team,” said Manetta. “But this past weekend we worked really well together as a team and I think we finally reached our peak.”

This is a sentiment shared by Jones, not only from a team perspective, but also from an individual performance standpoint.

“It’s been rough a couple of tournaments but we’ve turned it around and I’ve turned it around,” said Jones. “Becky and [assistant coach]Rich [Jacobson] have helped me with some issues that I had in the bad tournaments and have helped make the next tournaments really good.”

The Pioneers come into the NCAA tournament having won six straight NEC games and seven of the last eight. They are looking to continue their stride into the NCAA tournament.

“If you play very well you can honestly beat anybody, but if you play sloppy then you’ll probably be out of the tournament very quickly,” said Kregling.

In 2021, the Pioneers made the tournament as an at-large bid after failing to win the conference, but they ended up just short of the final four.

“We were really close to making the final four last year- like only a couple of pins away- so I really think we can do it this year,” said Manetta.

The Pioneers will face a familiar foe in the first round of the tournament as they take on NEC rival Fairleigh Dickinson University in Rochester, N.Y., on April 8.

Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.

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