The Sacred Heart University women’s wrestling team made their inaugural appearance at the East Stroudsburg Open on Sunday, Nov. 7. The Pioneers became just the second National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I school to implement a women’s wrestling team.
Sacred Heart is led by head coach Paulina Beiga, the second female wrestling coach in the NCAA Division I field.
“Before I see an athlete, I try to see a person in my girls,” said Beiga. “I want to teach them not just wrestling but how to be a good, kind, respectful and hard-working person.”
Biega is no stranger to college wrestling. Before coming to Sacred Heart, Biega helped Campbellsville University claim their second straight national championship as an assistant coach two seasons ago.
“Our goal is to always do our best,” said Beiga. “This year is all about growing and creating team culture but always striving to do our best on and off the mat.”
The Pioneers finished sixth out of 14 teams while using just five wrestlers.
Not only did first year Savannah Vanse have the opportunity to be a part of a historical program, but the Norwich, Conn. native also claimed the first victory in program history in 21 seconds.
“The drive I get when I’m on the mat hearing my teammates and coaches cheer me on makes me want to work even harder next time to relive moments like that again,” said Vanse. “Being on this team means that I have nothing to lose when it comes to pushing myself and my team to work hard.”
Vanse quickly found herself in the semifinal match against Claire Diaty of New Jersey City University (NJCU), winning in one minute and 22 seconds. After dropping her first match of the day, Vanse earned a spot in the third-place match against Lock Haven’s Madison Matta, where she fell after a long battle of five minutes and 25 seconds.
“I want to walk off the mat at tournaments pleased with my performance,” said Vanse. “Of course, everyone wants to win, but win or lose, I want to walk off the mat knowing I gave everything I had and had put full effort into the match.”
Freshman Ashley Reed also helped the Pioneers with a victory at 191 pounds, earning a bye into the quarterfinals.
“After Savannah’s big win to start us off at the East Stroudsburg Open, I had a very good feeling about this season,” said Reed. “Watching all my teammates and reflecting on how I performed, I think it is going to be a very successful season for us.”
Before coming to Sacred Heart, Reed was an All-American after finishing second in the National High School Coaches Association tournament.
“It’s an incredible feeling to have the opportunity to make history and grow a new program,” said Reed. “It is awesome to be part of a new team because we’re all learning together.”
With so many headlines coming into their inaugural season, Beiga knows she must continue to keep her wrestlers focused to strive toward success.
“Coach pushes consistency,” said Reed. “Her positivity on and off the mat is very motivating for each and every one of us.”
The Pioneers will make their way to Marshall, Mo. to compete in the two-day Missouri Valley College (MVC) Open on Nov. 19 and Nov. 20.
Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.