The Sacred Heart University women’s bowling team is set to open Northeast Conference (NEC) play on Saturday, Nov. 12, in Pittsburgh. They begin conference play chasing their sixth conference title and their ninth trip to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament.
Both the players and the coach have high expectations for the upcoming season. They were projected to finish first in the NEC in the preseason coaches’ poll and started the year ranked 16th in all of the NCAA.
“I think it reflects how we played last season,” said senior Hannah Manetta. “I feel like it’s a good start for where we are, but I definitely think we can go up from there.”
Manetta, a first team All-NEC selection from last season, is joined by sophomore teammate and All-Rookie selection Nancy Kohut to lead the Pioneers in the chase for another conference title.
“We definitely want to be NEC champions again this year,” Kohut said. “Being voted first in the preseason poll is really important, and I think it shows that other coaches believe in us and that we deserve it this year if we work hard.”
Backing the Pioneers is Head Coach Becky Kregling, who has been with the program since women’s bowling was first introduced to SHU in 1993. Under her leadership as a six-time NEC Coach of the Year, SHU has made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the past three seasons.
Though the team has yet to start their conference play, they have already bowled in two tournaments. In the SHU Bowl for the Cure Invitational, they went undefeated in nine rounds, and in the Adelphi Dezy Strong Classic, they went 7-6.
“It’s almost a similar start to last year in a way,” said Kregling. “We’ve started out a bit inconsistent. We had three days in the last tournament where we were really good the first day and not good at all the last day.”
Manetta agreed that there is room to improve from their performance at Adelphi.
“We’ve been a little shaky,” Manetta said. “We weren’t as consistent and haven’t come out of the gate as strong as we wanted to.”
Kregling thinks the performance will give her team some more drive heading into their NEC matchup.
“It’s not worrisome,” said Kregling. “It gives everybody something to work on. The practices have been more focused this week since the reality check came in that we’re not going to automatically win everything, which is good.”
The Pioneers are looking to continue their success from last year with a roster that has mostly stayed the same. Out of the 21 bowlers, only three are first years. The high number of returners has allowed the team chemistry to continue to grow coming into the season.
“I think the chemistry is really good,” said Kohut. “The freshmen add a lot of value to our team. They’re different and a good fit for us this year and will definitely help us get further this season.”
Kregling echoed the same sense of camaraderie among her players.
“They support each other more than any other team I’ve seen,” Kregling said. “They get along amazingly well. They respect each other and take care of each other.”
Both players and coach are looking forward to the season ahead.
“Part of why we won and had a bit of success last year was because we all really like each other and are a good group,” said Manetta. “This team has a lot of optimism and drive. We really want to win again.”
Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.