GAME 01 * SACRED HEART (0-0) VS. IONA (0-0) * Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 * 3:00 pm
Setting the Scene... The Sacred Heart women's lacrosse team will open their 2013 season on Wednesday afternoon taking on the Iona Gaels of the MAAC. The Pioneers are coming off a 2012 season where they won a share of the Northeast Conference Regular Season title. SHU welcomes back four All-NEC players from last season including their top-point producer in senior Emily Pepe. The Iona Gaels finished 9-7 last spring and 3-3 in the MAAC.
Last Meeting with Iona... The Pioneers and Gaels met to kick-off the 2012 season with Iona coming away with an 11-10 win in three overtimes. Iona's Casey Scully scored the game-winner with 56 seconds left in the third extra session for the season-opening win. SHU goalkeeper Kelly Keenan turned in 15 saves in her first career start. Emily Pepe had a pair of goals and assists while SHU senior Aurlie Pluijmakers scored three times in the loss. Scully had three goals for the Gaels.
2012-13 Captains... Sacred Heart Head Women's Lacrosse Coach Laura Cook announced that senior Emily Pepe and juniors Kelsey Russo and Samantha Villafranca have been named team captains for the upcoming 2013 season. All three return after posting All-Northeast Conference seasons last year.
Preseason Polling... The Pioneers were picked to finish sixth in the NEC Preseason Coaches' Poll. The defending champion Monmouth Hawks were slated as the preseason favorite. The Pioneers have qualified for seven-straight NEC Tournaments heading into this season and have won or shared four of the last five NEC regular season championships.
Pepe Led Offense... Senior attacker Emily Pepe was the Pioneers top-scorer in 2012, finishing the year with 72 total points. Pepe averaged 4.24 points per game for a SHU offensive attack that was third in the league in scoring (10.35 gpg). Pepe scored 29 goals in 2012, up from the 19 she posted as a sophomore. The senior attacker has collected 70 total assists in her 33 career games for SHU. For her career, she is 3.6 ppg.
Record Breaking... Pepe set a new school record in 2012, breaking the mark for assists in a season set by Mary Montesarchio in 2008 (38). She needs 21 assists to set the SHU record for career assists (Montesarchio - 91, 2006-09).
Russo Break-Out... Junior midfielder Kelsey Russo is coming off a season where she became not just a scoring threat for the Pioneers. After a rookie season saw her post 32 goals and six assists, she came close to matching those numbers again last spring. Russo scored 30 times and assisted on four other but where she saw a big boost in her numbers was in the draw circle and defensively. She finsihed the year with 58 draw controls, second among NEC leaders, led the team with 21 caused turnovers and had 36 ground balls. Her complete performance earned her All-NEC second team honors.
Keenan in Cage... Sophomore Kelly Keenan started every game in goal for the Pioneers last spring and posted a eight wins with an 11.36 goals against average in earning All-NEC second team honors as a rookie. Keenan averaged 9.47 saves per outing, third among NEC leaders.
All-NEC Pick Leads the D... Junior Samantha Villafranca, a two-year starter on defense for the Pioneers returns after an All-NEC season in 2012. Villafranca was SHU's top-defender last season, often matched-up with the opponents top-offensive threat. She finished the year with 16 caused turnovers and 27 ground balls while also collecting 36 draw controls.
SHU Newcomers... Head Coach Laura Cook has nine freshman on the 2013 roster. Look for midfielders Alison Braig, Jesslyn Joseph and Jenna Liljeberg along with defender Kelsie Mania to play key roles for the Pioneers this season.
Around the NEC... The league gets in full swing this week with all 10 teams in action. The first NEC weekly awards were handed out on Monday with Wagner's Jessica Mills earning the first Player of the Week nod thanks to a six goal, three assists effort in the Seahawks 21-2 win over Delaware State. Robert Morris goalkeeper Kaitlin Pentz was the NEC Defensive Player of the Week after makind six saves in leading her team to a 13-7 win over Detroit Mercy. Freshman teammate Brittany Byerly earned the league's rookie award after posting two goals and two assists against the Titans.