On Sept. 4, the Sacred Heart University women’s volleyball team earned a 3-1 victory over Columbia University at the Black Knight Invitational hosted in West Point, N.Y.
According to Sacred Heart Athletics, the Pioneers have a current pre-season record of 3-3, going 2-1 at the Boston College Invitational and 1-2 at the Black Knights Invitational.
After losing the first day to both the United States Military Academy (USMA) and High Point University, Sacred Heart was able to rally back and secure a win against Columbia to avoid a shut out at the Black Knights Invitational.
“Early in pre-season, we’re still finding the team dynamic,” said graduate student Mackenzie Eford. “Army we took to five (games). Next time we play them it’s an easy win in three.”
In their 2019 campaign, the volleyball team was able to secure a Northeast Conference (NEC) championship, which allowed them to qualify for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament.
Last season, the Pioneers had a dominant performance with a 10-0 record against all NEC opponents. However, due to Covid-19, the Pioneers were forced to forfeit to Long Island University, which ended their season abruptly.
The chance at another conference takeover is in the team’s sights going into the 2021 season.
“Of any team that I’ve had here, this team wants to be great as any of them (previous teams), and they’re willing to put in the work to do it,” said Head Coach Rob Machan.
Senior leader Sarah Ciszek led the team with a triple double in their matchups against Columbia and USMA.
Ciszek currently leads the NCAA in triple-doubles with three and ended last season with the 2nd most in Division I volleyball with four.
Not many players are able to achieve a weekly conference award in the NEC; however, after her performance this past weekend, Ciszek was able to collect offensive player of the week on top of her eight other conference awards.
“It’s awarding being recognized for all that I’ve done,” said Ciszek. “My personal goals are to beat my records from previous years, and I think I’m on the right track.”
Ciszek is not the only player on the team to be awarded conference awards, with her teammate Eford coming into the season with First-Team All-Conference in the Great American Conference (GAC) honors.
Alongside Ciszek, junior Jasmine Rogers was selected onto the All-Tournament team after their performances at the Black Knight Invitational.
Rogers was able to pick up a double-double with 13 kills and 13 digs in the Pioneers victory against the Columbia Lions.
“She’s (Rogers) one of the most consistent players on our team,” said Ciszek. “I think she’s underappreciated in this conference. Giving her All-Tournament team was needed.”
On Sept. 10 and 11, Sacred Heart is hosting a tournament in Fairfield, where teams from Lafayette College, Fairfield University and University of California, Irvine will be attending.
Even though the Stags of Fairfield share the same town as the Pioneers, they are not in the same conference as Sacred Heart. This will be the third tournament in a row where the Pioneers have not faced a conference opponent.
Although the Pioneers have a fairly long history of games against Fairfield, Sacred Heart has never faced UC Irvine, and the last time they played Lafayette was well over A decade ago.
“We prepare for all teams the same way,” said Machan. “We worry about what we’re doing, and our goal is being successful on our side of the net. We don’t worry about what the other team is going to do. We want them to adjust to us.”