The Sacred Heart University (SHU) men’s volleyball team served up their first Northeast Conference (NEC) win on Feb. 17 against D’Youville University. This is the first season that the Pioneers are competing in the NEC.
They controlled the floor, capturing a victory in three consecutive sets.
“We were super pumped for that,” said junior Pat Mucherino. “Not only was it our first conference win this season, but our first ever NEC win which is a huge deal to us.”
Mucherino had a stellar performance in his first taste of NEC volleyball. He recorded 14 kills, four blocks, with an efficient .478 hitting percentage.
“Prepping for D’Youville was just like any other team,” said Mucherino. “We focused on them the whole week and were mimicking their habits in practice to work on tactics to stop them.”
Senior Tyler Kwinta also had a big day on the court for the Pioneers, accumulating 31 assists.
“Going into the game versus D’Youville we mainly focused on things that we can control, which is serving and passing,” said Kwinta. “We knew that if we did those things well the rest of our play would take care of it.”
Junior Mark Berry was another key piece to the victory as he totaled 11 blocks and 13 kills with an impressive .529 hitting percentage. The six-foot four inch outside hitter was previously awarded the NEC player of the week on Feb. 1.
“It was good to know that some of the hard work is paying off,” said Berry. “I know that just my name was on there but my teammates played a big role in it. It’s a big personal achievement for me, but nothing would mean more to me than Sacred Heart being NEC champions.”
It was a slow start to the season for the Pioneers, who lost five out of their first six games, but they have put together some wins as of late with three in their last five.
“We didn’t come out the gates firing as hard as we wanted to but everything is starting to work out and look up for us going into conference play,” said Mucherino.
The confidence for the remainder of the season remains high for the team as they hit the halfway mark on their season.
“I have pretty high expectations for the rest of conference play,” said Kwinta. “I believe we have the ability to beat anyone in the conference.”
The ability to play with confidence comes from five core values that the team prioritizes.
“Our team’s culture is based around five key principles which are accountability, hard work, determination, togetherness, and respect,” said Kwinta. “We come into the gym every day saying the phrase – we will work hard and do great things.”
The men will be back on the court on March 10 to take on Merrimack at the Pitt Center.
“The team culture is super-tight knit,” said Mucherino. The foundation and specific values are setting a precise vision for the team.”
Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.