Pioneers Host Monmouth Hawks in Return to NEC Action
Jan. 3, 2010
Sacred Heart Pioneers (8-4, 1-0 NEC) vs. Monmouth Hawks (5-7, 0-1 NEC)
Game #13 - Monday, January 4, 2010 - 7:00 pm - Fairfield, Conn. - William H. Pitt Center (2,100)
Radio: www.SacredHeartPioneers.com Multimedia: Gametracker, Live Video
The Storyline... The Sacred Heart Pioneers are back in Northeast Conference action full-time starting Monday night against the Monmouth Hawks. The Pioneers carry a 22-game winning streak against NEC competition into Monday night’s tilt, a re-match of last season’s conference tournament semifinals. SHU saw their five-game winning streak ended last time out with a 51-45 loss at Siena, their lowest offensive output of the season. The Hawks come in off a 60-54 loss at home to Quinnipiac in their league opener.
Series... Sacred Heart leads the all-time series, 15-7 after sweeping all three meetings last season. The Pioneers posted a 77-65 win on the road and a 70-50 win at home during the regular season. SHU and Monmouth hooked-up in the NEC Tournament for the fourth time last season with the Pioneers knocking out the Hawk with a 64-54 semifinal win. The Monmouth Hawks snapped a seven-game Sacred Heart winning streak in the series by knocking the Pioneers out of 2008 NEC Tournament with a 75-70 quarterfinal win at LIU. The Pioneers are 8-2 against the Hawks at home and 7-3 on the road in West Long Branch, NJ. SHU has won four-straight over the Hawks in Boylan Gym and seven-straight at home in the Pitt Center.
SHU in the Northeast Conference... Sacred Heart is in its 11th season of play in the Northeast Conference. The Pioneers have posted a 139-42 conference record in their 11 years, having never finished lower then tied for third in the final league standings. The Pioneers are coming off their second NEC Championship along with a 21-0 run through the league last season. SHU won their first championship during the 2005-06 season, running off a 26-5 record and 16-2 NEC mark. Head Coach Swanson is the leader in all-time NEC wins at 139 victories.
The Coaches... Ed Swanson (SHU ‘89) is in his 20th season as head coach at his alma mater. Swanson posts a 330-225 record in his career at Sacred Heart. His teams have a 204-105 record since joining the Division I ranks in 1999-00. Swanson was inducted in to the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 and is the program’s longest tenured coach and all-time leader in coaching wins (330). He has been named the NEC Coach of the Year three times and is the all-time leader in regular season NEC wins (139). Stephanie Gaitley (Villanova ‘82) is in her second season on the bench at Monmouth University after spending the previous six years at Long Island University. Gaitley has guided the Hawks to a 23-20 record in her two seasons and racked up a 95-82 mark in her six seasons at LIU. She has also had head coaching stops at Richmond and Saint Joseph’s and has amassed a 430-253 record in her 24-year coaching career.
Scouting the Hawks... The Monmouth Hawks are off to a 5-7 start to their season and are coming off a 60-54 loss to Quinnipiac in their NEC opener last time out. Prior to that, Monmouth won their inaugural Hawk Holiday Classic, beating Howard and La Salle. The Hawks are the fifth youngest team in the nation having lost seven players, including four starters, from last season’s team that advanced to the NEC semifinals. Freshman guard Alysha Womack is the leading scorer at 10.3 ppg, on a team that is 10th in the NEC in scoring at 52.8 ppg.
Last Meeting with Monmouth... Sacred Heart got 24 points, nine rebound and five blocks from senior center Kaitlin Sowinski to lead the Pioneers past Monmouth, 64-54, in the semifinals of the 2009 Northeast Conference Tournament. The Pioneers came flying out of the gates and opened the game with a 10-0 run and went up 12-2 in the game’s first three minutes. Sowinski made her first three shots of the game but both her and the Pioneers would go stone cold over the next nine minutes. Sacred Heart would go without a point, missing 11-straight shots before a Callan Taylor jumper at 8:01 ended the drought. The Hawks struggled to capitalize, and were able to only pull within 14-10. SHU continued their offensive struggles for the rest of the half, scoring just nine more points after their initial 12-2 opening run. The Pioneers made seven-of-22 from the field and turned it over nine times in the first half. The Hawks went inside on their first possession of the second half as senior LaKia Barber got the ball down deep and converted, drawing a foul to go to the line with a chance to give her team their first lead. Barber’s free throw missed its mark and the Pioneers responded with a quick 8-0 spurt, six from Sowinski, to go up 29-21 with 16:11 on the clock. Monmouth used some tough defense to stay in the hunt and cut to within 34-31 at 11:45. With just over nine minutes left, SHU’s offense found its rhythm and put the game away. Taylor buried a long three from the top of the arc and the Pioneers got off on a game-defining 12-4 run. Up 52-40 with just under five minutes to play, Taylor put the stamp on a double double by converting on a put-back plus one with 2:24 left and SHU hit nine-of-10 at the free throw line down the stretch to secure the win. Sowinski finished nine-of-19 from the field and six-of-seven at the line on her way to a 24 point afternoon. Her five blocks contributed to a stellar defensive effort that saw SHU hold All-NEC forward Bender to just four points and just 33.9% (21-62) shooting by the Hawks. Taylor just missed recording a triple-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in the win.
Last Time Out... The Sacred Heart Pioneers got 21 points from junior Alisa Apo but shot a season-low 34.0% (18-53) in falling at Siena College 51-45 Wednesday night. The Pioneers never led in posting their lowest point total of the season. SHU saw their five-game winning streak snapped as they closed out the non-conference portion of their schedule with the loss. Apo’s 21 points came on seven-of-16 from the field including four-of-seven from behind the arc. She added eight assists and six rebounds to her totals. No other Pioneer found double digits as SHU turned it over 19 times leading to 21 Saint points at the other end. Siena also held the edge in the paint, outscoring the Pioneers 26-14. The Saints ran out to an 18-7 lead over the game’s first seven and a half minutes as Apo tried to pull the Pioneers back. Down 20-10 at the 9:48 mark, an Apo jumper got SHU off on a 10-0 run capped by a Lindsey Gibson fast break lay-up to tie it a 20-20 with 5:54 to go in the half. The Saints responded and closed the half strong with Serena Moore getting a pair of free throws and a pair of jumpers in the paint followed by a Merrick Volpe hoop for a 28-22 lead at the break. Siena took their biggest lead of the night four minutes into the second half, as Sarah Fullmer hit a pair of lay-ups and a jumper along with a Cristina Centeno three for a 37-25 advantage. Freshman Kiley Evans finished a three-point play and a lay-up to help cut the lead down to three, 37-34 but the Saints once again answered as Fullmer hit a pair in the paint and two free throws to put her team up 43-34 with 8:30 left. Down nine, 47-38, with five minutes to play, the Pioneers made one last spurt, cutting the lead to just a hoop after a Callan Taylor jumper and Apo three. Two free throws from Apo at 2:38 cut the deficit to 47-45, but that would prove to be the final Sacred Heart points of the night. SHU missed seven-straight down the stretch while a Cathy Cockrum lay-in and two free throws by Allie Lindenmann iced the game away for the Saints.
Pioneers NEC Streaking... The Pioneers own a 22-game winning streak against Northeast Conference opponents after their win over Fairleigh Dickinson earlier this season. SHU ran through the NEC schedule undefeated last season, 18-0, and picked up three more wins in the NEC tournament. Their 18-0 mark matched that of the 2003-04 Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash and 1993-94 Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers as the only schools to play a perfect 18-game league slate. All three teams went on to claim the NEC Championships those seasons. Both the Red Flash and the Mount had 25 game regular season NEC game winning streaks and a streak of 31-straight against NEC competition during their run.