The Sacred Heart women's basketball team has been picked to finish third in the 2010-11 NEC standings in a vote of the league's 12 head coaches. Alisa Apo (Freehold, NJ) earned a spot on the preseason All-Northeast Conference team, making her just the second player in school history to make the squad three times along with Amanda Pape. The conference announced both the poll results and the preseason all-conference team during a media teleconference, which served as a prelude to the league's 25th season of women's hoops.
"I'm excited about where we are as a team and I'm optimistic but we still have to get the job done when the ball goes up November 12," said SHU head coach Ed Swanson. Swanson enters his 21st season with the Pioneers and leads active league coaches with 150 wins against NEC opponents. "I think this team has a lot of weapons and has become more balanced, we can score in a lot of different ways and should be a solid team defensively as well."
Apo, the 2008-09 NEC player of the year, has averaged 16+ points per game over the last two seasons and currently ranks fifth on the all-time Sacred Heart scoring list with 1,420 points. Apo has also displayed the ability to share the ball, needing just 43 assists to become the program's all-time leader in assists. When asked about the best quality of his senior captain head coach Ed Swanson admired her humility. "She is humble and gracious along with being very talented. She is more focused on being a team player than her individual accomplishments. That's the type of player we try to recruit here at Sacred Heart", said Swanson.
Senior Maggie Cosgrove (Andover, MA) and junior Callan Taylor (Overland Park, KS) are also both within striking distance of the 1,000 point plateau. Cosgrove broke a SHU single season record in 2009-10 draining 76 three-pointers and has already eclipsed the school's career mark with 193 treys entering her senior season. Taylor, led the NEC in rebounding a year ago, averaging 9.4 boards per game. The junior forward was named to the All-NEC second team in 2009-10 a season removed from her selection to the All-Rookie team as a freshman.
Sacred Heart will also benefit from the return of Maureen Reilly (Cherry Hill, NJ) who missed the end of last season with a knee injury. Kiley Evans (Cazanovia, NY) earned a spot on the 2009-10 All-Rookie team averaging 11.3 points per game and shooting 42% from the floor last season. SHU also returns a pair of players who saw significant time off the bench last year in Morgan Merriman (Seattle, WA) and Alexis Campbell (Ashburn, VA).
"We have focused on our depth in the offseason and I've been very happy with our bench play and production," commented Swanson.
The Pioneers were picked to win the Northeast Conference a season ago and opened the season 6-0 against league opponents. However, SHU struggled down the stretch finishing third in the standings and as eventually knocked out of the postseason in a quarterfinal match-up with Central Connecticut State.
The league head coaches selected Long Island as the preseason favorite to capture the 2010-11 conference title, the Blackbirds received six first-place votes. Robert Morris, the defending regular season champion, came in just ahead of SHU in second and earned three first-place nods. The winners of last year's conference tournament, Saint Francis (PA), came in fourth in the poll and collected two first-place votes. Monmouth claimed the final first-place vote and was selected fifth ahead of Nutmeg State programs Quinnipiac and Central Connecticut State, respectively. Bryant, the conference's newest member was picked eighth while the Knights of Fairleigh Dickinson have been tabbed ninth. The bottom portion of the poll was rounded out in order by Wagner, Mount St. Mary's and St. Francis (NY).
The SHU women's basketball team tips-off the 2010-11 campaign next Friday, November 12 in the William H. Pitt Center against Saint Peter's.