Pioneers Open Season at Columbia Friday Night

Nov. 12, 2009

Sacred Heart vs. Columbia Game Notes in PDF Format Get Acrobat Reader

Sacred Heart Pioneers (0-0, 0-0 NEC) at Columbia Lions (0-0, 0-0 Ivy League)

Game #1 - Friday, November 13, 2009 - 7:00 pm - New York, N.Y. - Levien Gymnasium (2,700)

Radio: None       Multimedia: Live Stats

The Storyline... The Sacred Heart Pioneers tip-off the 2009-10 season Friday night facing the Columbia Lions. The Pioneers were tabbed as the favorite to repeat as Northeast Conference champions in the preseason poll of the league’s head coaches. SHU returns three starters from last season’s 25-8 club led by a pair of Preseason All-NEC picks in guard Alisa Apo and forward Callan Taylor. The Lions open their season as well and remain at home on Sunday to take on Oakland.

Series... The Pioneers hold a 4-3 edge in the all-time series. The series has been dominated by the home team, alternating home court victories for seven seasons from 2001 through 2008. SHU took the last meeting, 62-61, in Fairfield during the 2007-08 season. The Pioneers are 4-0 at the Pitt Center and 0-3 in Levien Gymnasium. Pioneers vs. the Ivy League... The Pioneers are 19-15 all-time versus teams from the Ivy League. SHU has faced every team in the league with the exception of the University of Pennsylvania. Friday’s opener at Columbia is the first of three match-ups with Ivy schools this season with Harvard and Yale also on the schedule. The Pioneers have faced instate rival Yale the most of any school, holding an 9-3 series lead including eight-straight wins. The Pioneers are 4-3 all-time against Columbia and hold a 3-1 lead over Princeton. SHU is an even 3-3 with Brown and 0-2 against the Big Green of Dartmouth. SHU has faced Cornell just once, losing to the Big Red.

The Coaches... Ed Swanson (SHU ‘89) is in his 20th season as head coach at his alma mater. Swanson posts a 322-221 record in his career at Sacred Heart. His teams have a 196-102 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 (322). He has been named the NEC Coach of the Year three times and is the all-time leader in regular season NEC wins (138). Paul Nixon (Vanderbilt ‘93) is in his fifth season at Columbia University and owns a 37-54 record at the helm of the Lions women’s basketball program. Nixon had assistant coaching stints at Indiana, Southern Mississippi and Nevada-Reno before accepting his first head coaching job at Columbia.

Scouting the Lions... The 2009-10 version of the Columbia Lions returns four starters from last season’s team which set the program record for NCAA Division I victories in a season after a 13-15 campaign. The Lions welcome back a trio of players who earned postseason Ivy League recognition last season in guards Sarah Yee and Danielle Brown and forward Judie Lomax. Lomax was the nation’s leading rebounder last season, pulling down an NCAA best 14.3 caroms per game. She also led the team in scoring at 14.1 points per game on her way to All-Ivy honors. Yee was last season’s Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year after and averaged 6.8 points per game last season. Brown, an honorable mention All-Ivy performer, averaged 8.8 points a year ago. Also returning to the front line is junior forward Lauren Dwyer who averaged 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds and led the team with 36 blocks. The Lions were picked to finish fourth in the 2009-10 Preseason Ivy League Media Poll.

Last Meeting with Columbia... Sacred Heart junior center Kaitlin Sowinski broke a 61-61 tie with nine seconds left on the clock hitting a free throw for her career-high 31st point and notched her seventh blocked shot in the closing seconds to preserve a 62-61 win over the Columbia Lions on December 30, 2007. A back and forth first half saw nine ties with neither team opening more then a four-point advantage. Sowinski carried SHU over the first 20 minutes of action, pouring in 19 points while no other Pioneer managed more then three points. Where Sowinski did much of her damage in the first half, Stephanie Ryan picked it up in the second half, scoring 12 of her 14 points in the stanza. Columbia refused to go away and pulled even twice in the second stanza and tied the game at 61-61 with 24 seconds left. Sowinski’s free throw gave SHU the one-point advantage and she turned away a last second Danielle Brown attempt to seal the win. Ryan finished with her second-straight double double and her fourth this season, adding 10 rebounds to her 14 points. She also made three steals and passed out four assists in the win.

Season Openers... For the ninth time in SHU’s 11 years in Division I the Pioneers will start a season on the road. SHU is 4-6 in season openers since becoming a member of the NEC in 1999-00 and 17-18 all-time. SHU is 9-12 all-time in season openers away from home. The Pioneers have lost their last three season openers, falling at Kansas, 106-64 last season, at Rhode Island 62-43 in 2007-08 and 68-46 at Boston College in 2006-07. The last SHU win to open a campaign was in 2005-06, a 65-49 win at Providence.

2009-10 Home Opener Right Around the Corner... After opening at Columbia on Friday night, the Pioneers will turn right back around and host the Villanova Wildcats Monday night in their home opener. SHU is 9-3 in home openers at the William H. Pitt Center since it’s opening during the 1997-98 season. The Pioneers have lost two of their last three home openers as they put their 12-game home winning streak on the line against the Wildcats.

Apo and Taylor Preseason All-NEC Picks... Sacred Heart returns the top-scoring duo (28.9 ppg) in the NEC this season in junior guard Alisa Apo and sophomore forward Callan Taylor, both earning recognition with spots on the Preseason All-NEC team.

Pioneers Tabbed to Repeat... The defending Northeast Conference champion Sacred Heart Pioneers were tabbed as the preseason favorite to repeat and capture the 2009-10 women’s basketball crown, receiving nine first-place votes in a poll of the league’s 12 head coaches. The Pioneers were named the NEC preseason favorite on one prior occasion, prior to the 2007 season. SHU won their first-ever conference crown in 2006 and were the coaches’ pick to repeat during the subsequent season only to fall two points short of Robert Morris in the 2007 NEC Tournament final.

The Return of the Player of the Year... Junior guard Alisa Apo became only the second woman in Northeast Conference history to win the NEC Player of the Year award the season after claiming NEC Rookie of the Year honors, joining the legendary Jess Zinobile of Saint Francis (PA) in accomplishing the feat last year. Apo started all 33 games last season, the only Pioneer to do so, on her way to averaging a team-high 16.9 points per game (5th in NEC). Apo went to the charity stripe 184 times last season and sunk a league-high 153 free throws. Her free throw percentage (.832) and three-point field goal percentage (.385) both ranked fifth in the NEC as did her 4.09 assists per game average.

Taylor Coming of Stellar Rookie Season... Forward Callan Taylor enters her sophomore season as one of the top front court players in the NEC. An NEC All-Rookie and All-Tournament Team selection as a freshman, Taylor became the second consecutive rookie Pioneer to lead the NEC in three-point field goal percentage (.441) and ranked second in overall shooting (.498). Her size and aestheticism yielded the NEC’s eighth-best rebounding average (7.3 rpg) while her scoring average (12.0) landed her 19th amongst league leaders.

SHU Streaking... The Pioneers will carry a 21-game winning streak against Northeast Conference opponents into this season. The first NEC game on the slate won’t come until December 5th with a trip to Fairleigh Dickinson. SHU is also riding an 12-game home winning streak heading into the year and will face their first test in the Pitt Center Monday night against Villanova. The Pioneers finished 15-2 at home last season Sacred Heart won a school record 21-straight games last season before their loss to Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament. The Pioneers shattered their previous record of 10-straight wins set previously during the 2007-08 and 2005-06 seasons. l record 17-game winning streak, tied for the third longest winning streak in the country.

Apo and Cosgrove Voted Team Captains... Sacred Heart junior guards Alisa Apo and Maggie Cosgrove were named team captains of the women’s basketball team for the 2009-10 season. For the first time under head coach Ed Swanson a pair of juniors will serve as team captains. Former Pioneer guard Kerri Burke became the first junior to earn captainship honors when she was named a captain during her junior season in 2005-06. She also served as a captain her senior season.

Apo Recognized by Full Court Press... Junior guard Alisa Apo was listed as an honorable mention to the 2009-10 Full Court Press Preseason Mid-Major Top-25 players to watch list.

Pioneer Record Breakers... The Pioneers set 10 new school records last season on their road to a championship: Consecutive Wins - 21 Points in a Season - 2,283 Field Goals in a Season - 810 Three-Point Field Goals in a Season - 214 Field Goal Percentage in a Season - .385 (214-556) Career Field Goal % - Kaitlin Sowinski - .528 (593-1123) Career Free Throw % - Alisa Apo - .808 (244-302) Career Blocks - Kaitlin Sowinski - 326 Three-Point FG in a Season - Maggie Cosgrove - 69 (tied) Free Throw % in a Season - Alisa Apo - .832 (153-184)

Inching Her Way to 1,000... Sacred Heart’s Alisa Apo enter her junior campaign 925 points scored in her career. Apo is looking to become the 14th player in Pioneer history to eclipse the 1,000 point plateau for her career. The last Pioneer to join the club was Kaitlin Sowinski (2005-09) who accomplished the feat in the final game of her junior season. The fastest Pioneer to 1,000 points was all-time leading scorer Amanda Pape (2003-07) who reached the mark in her 66th career game. Apo has played in 63 games over her first two seasons.

SHU Coming Off NEC Perfection... The Pioneers ran through the NEC slate and tournament an unbeaten 21-0 last season taking home the program’s second conference title. The Pioneers became just the third team in Northeast Conference history to run through the regular season 18-0 on the way to their third regular season title (2005-06, 2006-07, 2008-09).

Another 20 Win Season... The Pioneers are coming off a 25 win season in 2008-09, marking their fourth 20-win season in the last six years. SHU has gone eight-straight seasons with winning 18 games or more, including nine-straight winning seasons and 14-straight years with a .500 record or better. Last season marked the program’s fifth 20 win season, all under the direction of head coach Ed Swanson. The Pioneers won a program record 26 games in the 2005-06 NEC Championship season and also eclipsed the 20 win mark in 1995-96 (20), 2003-04 (21) and 2006-07 (22).

Swanson a New England Hall of Famer... Head coach Ed Swanson was selected for induction into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame this past fall. Swanson was inducted on October 9th in a ceramony at Mohegan Sun. The New England Basketball Hall of Fame is anchored at the Institute for International Sport at the University of Rhode Island and 2009 marked the fifth induction ceremony in the organization’s history. Swanson was joined by the University of Vermont’s Sharon Dawley as the only two coaches being inducted in the intercollegiate women’s basketball coaching category.

2009-10 Non-Conference Slate... The 2009-10 schedule features 11 non-conference games against schools from the likes of the Big East, Ivy League, America East and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conferences. The Pioneers are 3-11 all-time against the Big East and will play host to Villanova in a return home-and-home match-up from last season. SHU faces four teams from the MAAC, a conference they are 5-4 against, in facing Manhattan, Saint Peter’s, Siena and crosstown rival Fairfield. SHU is 19-15 all-time against the Ivy League and face Columbia, Harvard and Yale this year. The Pioneers are 9-8 against America East facing Stony Brook, Hartford and Binghamton this season.

Pioneers in the Northeast Conference... Sacred Heart is in it’s 11th season of play in the Northeast Conference. The Pioneers have posted a 138-42 conference record in their 10 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. TSHU 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 138 victories.

SHU Featured on NEC TV Package... The Sacred Heart Pioneer women’s basketball team will be featured as part of the 2009-10 Northeast Conference basketball television package, a lineup that will feature 19 regionally produced games and two national postseason broadcasts on the ESPN family of networks. The defending NEC champion Pioneers will face rival Quinnipiac and take on Saint Francis (PA) in a rematch of last year’s title game as part of the package. Both appearances will be part of a doubleheader with the Sacred Heart men’s team.

No Place Like the Pitt... The Pioneers have become one of the toughest teams to play on their home court, the William H. Pitt Center. Since the opening of the Pitt Center in 1997, Sacred Heart teams have won 84% (138-27) of their home games, posting a 14-2 mark including 11-straight heading into this season. SHU posted a perfect 15-0 in 2005-06 and 14-0 in 2003-04 and between 2002 and 2004, the Pioneers put together a string of 19-straight regular season wins at home in the Pitt Center. Their .835 winning percentage at home ranks the Pitt Center nationally as one the toughest arenas for visiting teams to earn a win.

Program History... This is the 36th season of Pioneer women’s basketball. Sacred Heart’s first year of competition was the 1974-75 season under head coach Mickey Stratton. SHU carries an overall record of 427 wins and 465 losses for a .477 winning percentage. SHU joined the Division I ranks in the 1999-2000 season as a member of the Northeast Conference, making this the 10th season at the Division I level. SHU has posted a 196-102 Division I record. xxxxx