Sacred Heart’s season, which was full of quarantines, injuries, and inconsistencies ended Friday night inside the William H. Pitt Center as late costly turnovers allowed Merrimack to pull away for a 64-57 victory over the Pioneers.
Sacred Heart finishes the season 8-10, but struggled down the stretch of the season, losing the last five games of the season and ultimately missing out on the Northeast Conference. The Pioneers’ fifth place finish in the conference is the lowest since the team finished sixth in 2014, Mannetti’s first season at the helm in Fairfield
“I know everyone has a heavy heart,” Mannetti said. “This is not how we wanted it to end. All we can do is tell them we love them and we are proud of them. Their effort has been special. This team has been really special.”
Freshman Kelsey Wood led the way for Sacred Heart with a career-high 17 points, making one final case for her Rookie of the Year campaign. Jayla Davis, Adrianne Hagood, and Nikki Johnson also finished in double figures.
With Sacred Heart finished for this season, Mannetti wasted no time finding how to use her time.
“I think I’m going to take a deep breath and enjoy this extra time,” Mannetti said.” My family lives 20 minutes down the road, and I rarely see them. I think the little self care things.”
Prior to the first game of the series between Merrimack, Sacred Heart honored their five seniors: Adrianne Hagood, Olivia Dabney, Jayla Davis, Nikki Johnson, and Abigail Kangudie. However, with the extra year of eligibility available this season, all of them have a chance to return if they choose to do so.
“I know one is definitely coming back, but for the other four I think it’s too early to tell,” Mannetti said. “I told them to go home and be with your families. Go find a place where you can decompress and be comfortable. Take a break mentally and physically in two weeks.”
For the time being, Sacred Heart will not be participating in the Northeast Conference tournament. The Pioneers’ absence in the tournament will be the first time a Sacred Heart team has missed the postseason since 1999. Sacred Heart had made the postseason every single year as a member of the conference, which began in the 1999-2000 season.