Sacred Heart Pioneers In Search of Fourth NEC Title
2012 NORTHEAST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT * SACRED HEART UNIVERSITY, CAMPUS FIELD
GAME 17 * SACRED HEART VS. MOUNT ST. MARY'S * Friday, April 27, 2012 * 1:00 pm
Setting the Scene... For the third time in program history, the Sacred Heart Pioneers are the #1 seed in the Northeast Conference Tournament as they try to capture their fourth conference title in the last five seasons when the playoffs start this Friday. The top-seeded Pioneers will take on #4 seed Mount St. Mary's in the first of two semifinal match-ups Friday on Campus Field. The #2 seed Quinnipiac takes on #3 seed Monmouth in the second game with the winners to meet in Sunday's NEC Championship game. The Pioneers faced all three teams at home this season, beating Quinnipiac but losing to both Mount and Monmouth. SHU played their way into the top-seed thanks to a comeback 10-9 win over Central Connecticut State on Sunday in what amounted to an elimination game game with the winner grabbing the final tournament spot and the loser seeing their season end.
Last Time Out... The Pioneers faced off with the Central Connecticut Blue Devils on Sunday afternoon in a battle for the final playoff spot in this year's NEC Tournament. The Pioneers overcame a 9-5 halftime deficit, shutting the Blue Devils out in the second half on the way to a 10-5 win to claim a share of the NEC Regular Season Championships and right to host the conference tournament. The Pioneers kept the Blue Devils off the scoreboard for the final 30 minutes while limiting the CCSU offense to just five shots. On the flip side, SHU tacked on five goals by five different players to dig out of the halftime hole. Junior Emily Pepe was the Pioneers top playmaker, scoring twice with six assists. She had a hand in each of SHU's second half goals, scoring once and assisting on the four others. Sacred Heart took advantage of four CCSU yellow cards in the second half, posting goals on each of the man-up opportunities.
Pioneer News & Notes... The Pioneers enter the tournament having won five-straight NEC games and five of their last six...SHU battled their way to a 7-2 league mark, winning four NEC games by just a goal and a fifth by two goals...Junior Emily Pepe claimed her second NEC Player of the Week award thanks to a 14-point week in leading the Pioneers past Bryant and CCSU and into the NEC Tournament as the top-seed...Pepe had a career-high six assists and eight points in the win over Central Connecticut...The junior attacker also set a new Sacred Heart school record for assists in a season...Her 43 assists breaks the mark of 38 set by Mary Montesarchio during the 2008 campaign...She ranks second in the NEC in assists per game (2.69) and points per game (4.44)...Senior Aurelie Pluijmakers finished the regular season with 37 goals, ninth among NEC leaders (2.31)...In her previous three years combined, Pluijmakers had a combined 10 goals...Senior Kate Kmiotek finished the regular season with 20 goals and 20 assists...Her 20 assists ranks eight among NEC leaders (1.25)...Sophomore Kelsey Russo has been an all-around threat for the Pioneers, posting 29 goals, four assists, 56 draw wins, 35 grounders and 20 caused turnovers after making the move from attack to midfield this season...She ranks third in the NEC in draw controls (3.73)...She is second in the NEC in 8-meter goals with 13 (13-24).
NEC Tournament History... This is Sacred Heart's 11th trip to the Northeast Conference Tournament and their seventh-straight year in the postseason. The Pioneers are 7-7 all-time in NEC Tournament play. SHU has hoisted the NEC Championship trophy three times, winning in 2008, 2009 and 2010, joining UMBC as the only program to win three-straight titles in the league's history. Sacred Heart has served as the host of the tournament three times, in 2003, 2009 and 2010. SHU hosted but did not qualify for the post season in 2003. The Pioneers are 4-1 against Quinnipiac, 2-2 against Monmouth and 1-1 against Mount St. Mary's in NEC Tournament history. Here is a year by year breakdown:
1999 - at UMBC - Semifinals - #1 UMBC 19 -- #4 SHU 6
2000 - at Wagner - Semifinals - #1 UMBC 14 -- #4 SHU 8
2002 - at UMBC - Semifinals - #1 UMBC 16 -- #4 SHU 4
2004 - at Monmouth - Semifinals - #1 Mount St. Mary's 6 -- #4 SHU 5
2006 - at Monmouth - Semifinals - #2 SHU 12 -- #3 Quinnipiac 9 - Championship - #1 Monmouth 10 -- #2 SHU 5
2007 - at Mount St. Mary's - Semifinals - #2 Monmouth 15 -- #3 SHU 13
2008 - at Quinnipiac - Semifinals - #2 SHU 12 -- #3 Monmouth 11 - Championship - #2 SHU 15 -- #1 Quinnipiac 14
2009 - at Sacred Heart - Semifinals - #1 SHU 13 -- #4 Monmouth 7 - Championship - #1 SHU 11 -- #2 Quinnipiac 6
2010 - at Sacred Heart - Semifinals - #1 SHU 14 -- #4 Mount St. Mary's 5 - Championship - #1 SHU 12 - #2 Quinnipiac 7
2011 - at Quinnipiac - Semifinals - #1 Quinnipiac 18 - #4 SHU 9
Pioneers in the NCAA Rankings... Junior attacker Emily Pepe is among the nation's leaders in points and assists this season. Pepe rans 12th in the NCAA in points (71) and 17th in points per game (4.44 pg). She ranks fifth among NCAA leaders in assists (43) and assists per game (2.69). Freshman goalie Kelly Keenan is fifth in the country in saves (153), 10th in saves per game (9.56 pg) and 24th in save percentage (.450). She is 12th in ground balls per game (2.88 pg). Sophomore Kelsey Russo is 30th in draw controls (30).
Series History vs. Mount St. Mary's... Mount St. Mary's holds an 12-5 advantage in the all-time series with Sacred Heart. The Mount won the first meeting this season, beating the Pioneers 11-6 on Campus Field earlier this season. The Pioneers and Mount have split their two meetings in the NEC Tournament. SHU beat the Mountaineers 14-5 on Campus Field on the way to the 2010 NEC Championship. The Mount beat SHU 6-5 in the 2004 NEC Semifinal on their way to winning their first ever title. SHU is 0-9 against the Mount in Emmitsburg, MD and 5-2 against the Mountaineers at home on Campus Field.
Last Meeting with the Mountianeers... Mount St. Mary's got four goals from sophomore Lindsay Diaz and defensively held Sacred Heart in check on the way to a 11-6 win over the Pioneers on Sunday. The Mount went six-for-eight on 8-meter free position attempts let by Diaz who was three-of-five in the win. The Pioneers started both halves with long scoring droughts and couldn't recover en route to their second-straight NEC loss. SHU was whistled for 30 fouls in a physical game that saw each team draw five yellow cards. Sacred Heart senior Aurelie Pluijmakers scored twice while junior Emily Pepe had a goal and two assists in the loss. The Mount held SHU off the scoreboard until the nine minute mark in the first half, building a 3-0 lead. The Pioneers wouldn't score until the 7:19 mark in the second half, falling behind 9-3 in that span.
Scouting the Mount... Mount St. Mary's finished the regular season 7-10 overall and tied for third with Monmouth at 6-3. The Mount had won three-straight and four out of five before an 11-6 loss in the regular season finale on the road to the Hawks. The Mount qualified for the NEC Tournament for the 10th-straight season, the longest active streak in the NEC. As a team, the Mount enters the postseason with the lowest scoring offense in the league at 8.47 goals per game. R-Sophomore Kaitlyn Larrimore leads the team with 30 goals and 34 points on the year. Freshman Erin Seipp is on of the league's top-rookies with 19 goals and eight assists this spring. Senior goalie Erin McTavish is fourth in the NEC in goals against average (11.42), ninth in saves per games (6.59) and 10th in save percentage (.384).