February 29, 2012

Pioneers Win NEC Rookie, Player and Coach of the Year

Fairfield, Conn.—For the first time, Sacred Heart is home to the Northeast Conference Player, Rookie and Coach of the Year. Callan Taylor (Overland Park, Kan.) and Gabrielle Washington (Mesa, Ariz.) pick up top honors this morning as the NEC Player and Rookie of the Year, while Head Coach Ed Swanson was named Brenda Reilly Coach of the Year. The annual NEC Awards were announce this morning via Twitter.

Taylor was named Player of the Year after a season where she nearly averaged a double-double with 17.0 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Her high point of the season was at Robert Morris in January when she put 31 points on the board. The six-foot forward recorded 14 double-doubles this season, bringing her career total to 52 maintaining her lead over all active NCAA Division I players. At home against Quinnipiac, Taylor pulled down the 1,000 rebound of her career, making her the first Pioneer in Division I history to have 1,000 career points and 1,000 rebounds. Four games later, at Monmouth, she became the new Sacred Heart all-time rebounding leader, breaking Kelley Gray's record of 1,036 set from 1983-87. The senior was also named to the All-NEC First Team for the second time in her career.

Washington got the nod as Rookie of the Year just two days after winning her fifth Choice Hotels Northeast Conference Rookie of the Week. Last week, the freshman had back-to-back 20-plus point performances, including the game-saving triple against Robert Morris at the buzzer to send the title clinching game into overtime. Nothing new, however, as the Mesa, Ariz. native has been an offensive force for the Pioneers throughout her rookie campaign. Washington finished the season averaging 12.3 points per game after recording double-digit scoring 18 times this season, including six 20-plus point games. The 5-foot-9 guard leads all rookies in scoring heading into the NEC Championship Tournament. Her sharp-shooting also has her leading the league in three-point field goal percentage, 48.1%. Washington was also voted to the NEC All-Rookie Team and All-NEC Second Team.

For the fourth time in his career, Swanson has been named the Brenda Reilly Coach of the Year. For the fourth time since joining the Division I ranks, Swanson has led the Pioneers to a first place finish. With a 15-3 NEC record, Sacred Heart finished a full two games ahead of the second place Quinnipiac Bobcats. He received the honor in 2009 when, like 2012, the Pioneers finished atop the NEC. That season, Sacred Heart was a perfect 19-0 in conference play and went on to win the NEC Tournament sending them to the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

No. 1 Sacred Heart will host No. 8 Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday in the first round of the 2012 NEC Championship Tournament.