On Sept. 30, the commissioner of the Northeast Conference (NEC), Noreen Morris, announced that the Sacred Heart University men’s volleyball team will be the 25th sport in the NEC, eligible to compete for a conference championship.

Eligibility will extend not only to Sacred Heart but also to five other Division I NEC programs, including Fairleigh Dickinson, Long Island University, Merrimack, St. Francis Brooklyn and Saint Francis University.

“It is really cool as a program to compete with other teams in the same conference as our school,” said junior setter and libero Tyler Kwinta. “It’s great for men’s volleyball as a whole, especially with all the competition on the East Coast.”

 Kwinta registered 23 assists in the 2021 season, and 11 of those against St. Francis Brooklyn on Jan. 10.

Additionally, with the help of the First Point Volleyball Foundation, NEC men’s volleyball will be able to give out weekly awards, such as player of the week and rookie of the week, starting in the 2024-2025 season.

 “It’s cool to see new teams, new conferences, new competition,” said junior outside hitter Nick Galasso. “There’s a lot of new freshmen, and it’s the upperclassmen’s job to keep them together and make sure they develop and understand what the program is about.”

The team welcomes 11 new faces to the squad as they are coming off a 1-19 season just last spring.

 “We still have a very young team, but since the freshmen have a year under their belt, I think we should be better than we were last year,” said Head Coach Bertucci.

In just her first month of taking over the athletics program, Athletic Director Judy Ann Riccio has already seen the strides the NEC is making to better represent the programs.

“I am pleased that Sacred Heart men’s volleyball will be under the Northeast Conference umbrella in 2022-23,” said Riccio. “This is a terrific move for our program and future.”

The team opens up their season on Jan. 12 on the road against Springfield University. Their first NEC matchup will be at the William H. Pitt Center on Feb. 11 against St. Francis University.

“We’re hoping to be one of the top six teams. That’s our goal,” said Bertucci.

Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.

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