The Sacred Heart University women’s volleyball team won their third straight Northeast Conference (NEC) title on Nov. 20. After finishing the season with a 17-9 record in the regular season, the Pioneers defeated Long Island University (LIU) and Bryant University in the NEC tournament to give them a conference title and an automatic bid into the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship tournament.
“It’s a hard working group that has high expectations,” said head coach Rob Machan.
“I think we really worked hard to develop strong chemistry to finish up the regular year and that’s what I am the most pleased with.”
After being forced to forfeit last year’s NEC Championship against LIU because of a positive Covid-19 test, the team was able to handle unfinished business.
“Coming off a very strong season last year, I think we have put together a very good regular season,” said Machan. “We are playing our best volleyball to end the regular season.”
Considering that the Pioneers faced both Bryant and LIU in the regular season, senior Sarah Ciszek had no doubts about the abilities of her teammates coming into the tournament.
“We have discovered that we have multiple secret weapons we can play with,” said Ciszek. “We are very confident and I think we can use that to our advantage.”
Sophomore Dominique Felix understood that although their team was a strong force, no win comes easy in the NEC.
“When we started, we came into the conference thinking we were going to go undefeated like we did last year,” said Felix. “Once we started to realize that we are not just going to come in here and beat teams 3-0, we started to do a little better.”
With lessened Covid restrictions, Felix believes that this allowed for team chemistry to be built more so than it ever was last season.
“Covid affected us a lot,” said Felix. “Last year with the masks and not being able to practice, there were just a lot of things that we couldn’t do. This year, we were able to learn more.”
Going into this tournament, the team already had their sights set on an even bigger accomplishment than making it to the tournament itself.
“Our expectations are to advance. We are a very good team in the playoffs. We’ve been here before. Our goal is to win and go to the NCAA tournament.” said Ciszek.
The Division I NCAA volleyball championship selection show will take place on Nov. 28, where the Pioneers will find out who they will play in the first round of the championship tournament.
Sacred Heart Athletics attributed to this article.