BY Josef Samilenko
The women’s volleyball team clinched a Northeast Conference (NEC) Tournament berth after sweeping Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) in three sets at the Pitt Center on Nov. 3.
The sweep against CCSU marked the team’s final home game of the season. It was also Senior Night, and the team recognized the graduating seniors for their contributions to the team for their time at Sacred Heart University.
“Our seniors have meant so much to the team,” said head coach Rob Machan. “The upperclassmen did such an awesome job helping the new players adapt to the collegiate level of play,”
Senior Lauren Middlemass was one of the five seniors who saw their last home game come and go.
“Naturally, home games bring a special energy and we had great vibes all around,” said Middlemass. “A team never wants to lose on their own court, especially on Senior Day.”
The team’s previous run-in with CCSU this season was on Oct. 6, which resulted in a 3-1 loss for Sacred Heart.
Their time with CCSU may not be over yet, as their program also clinched a bid in the Tournament.
“To qualify for the Tournament is such a special feeling, and to be able to experience it with my 16 best friends is something I will never forget,” said Middlemass.
The team has qualified for the NEC Tournament three out of the four years Middlemass has been on the team. They fell to Long Island University (LIU) Brooklyn in 2015 and 2016. The team missed the Tournament last year.
Middlemass and the rest of the senior class have stressed the importance of enjoying the experience of playing in the tournament to the underclassmen.
“Our level of play against CCSU was the highest we ever reached,” said Middlemass. “To come out swinging and digging the way we did at this point of the season was a great portrayal of all of our hard work this season.”
Sacred Heart will be looking to win their first NEC title since 2011, when they defeated LIU Brooklyn in four sets to win their second straight team title.
“The players on this team have worked so hard this year to come together and be able to play at the level they have, with all the work they have put in. They’ve earned the right to have a great postseason,” said Machan.
Sacred Heart finished their regular season 16-9 overall, with an 8-2 record at home. They went 9-5 in conference play.
“We always talk about how we can always do better, and this group worked very hard to maximize the potential they had,” said Machan.
Sacred Heart and LIU Brooklyn will meet each other again in the NEC Tournament this year. They will play against each other in the Semifinals matchup at LIU on Nov. 16. The winner advances to the NEC Championship game on Nov. 17.