November 18, 2010

Top Seeded Pioneers Host Northeast Conference Tournament This Weekend

Complete NEC Tournament Game Notes (PDF)

The Storyline... The Sacred Heart women's volleyball team hosts the 2010 Northeast Conference tournament this weekend with a trip to the NCAA tournament on the line.  The Pioneers posted a 5-1 record against the three other teams in this year's tournament, losing only a 3-2 battle on the road to Robert Morris.  Sacred Heart takes on the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils in the first of Saturday's semifinals with the winner to face-off with either Robert Morris or Long Island in the championship match on Sunday.

Historic Regular Season Championship... Ashlyn Trimble put the final point to the floor last Sunday in a 3-0 sweep of Long Island to start the celebration of Sacred Heart's first ever regular season championship.  The Pioneer win marked a milestone in the program's historic turnaround after finishing the 2006 season with a 3-23 overall record.  But since the arrival of this year's senior class and head coach Rob Machan in 2007 Sacred Heart has compiled a 77-50 mark, reaching the NEC tournament every year, and appearing in its first title game in 2009.

Home Cookin'...  The Pioneers are a perfect 14-0 in the friendly confines of the William H. Pitt Center in 2010.  SHU has recorded nine 3-0 sweeps at home and no opponent has forced Sacred Heart into a fifth set on its home court.  At home the Pioneers average an additional 2.5 digs, 0.7 kills and 0.5 service aces per set.

Not "Kidd"ing... Senior captain Courtney Kidd-Kadlubek ranks first in the Northeast Conference and seventh in the NCAA with 11.87 assists per set.  Kidd-Kadlubek has already improved her numbers from a season ago in which she was named the 2009 NEC setter of the year as well as earning All-NEC first team honors.  The Santa Barbara, CA native is the Pioneers all-time leader in assists, standing at 4,510 entering the 2010 NEC tournament.  Kidd-Kadlubek garnered two Molten/Northeast Conference player of the week awards in 2010, including the final award of the season.  The senior tallied 107 helpers in the final two regular season games of her career in a week in which the Pioneers went 2-0 to clinch the regular season championship. 

Sage "Kills" the NEC... Sophomore middle blocker Elise Sage finished the 2010 season with 371 kills and a conference leading .372 hitting percentage.  Sage fared even better against conference opponents slamming home 3.46 kills per set and notching an incredible .437 swinging percentage.  She became a fixture in the race for Molten/Northeast Conference player of the week honors, taking home the award four times.  The Greenwood Village, CO product has posted six 15-kill performance and a pair of 20 kill matches, both against NEC playoff teams.  Her most efficient match of the year came against Bryant in which she hit a blistering .900, tallying nine kills on her ten total attempts.

Mercado's Molten/NEC Rookie of the Week Streak... Freshman Dianis Mercado has put together a sparkling first year at Sacred Heart to lead the squad with 3.51 kills per set, ranking third in the league.  The strong-armed outside hitter took six of the 12 total Molten/NEC rookie of the week nods handed out in 2010.  At one point Mercado essentially owned the award, winning three straight and four-of-five between September 20 and October 18.  The Vega Baja, Puerto Rico native missed the first three matches of the season as she awaited clearance from the NCAA, since her arrival on the court the Pioneers are 27-3.

Tournament Time...  Sacred Heart is 2-4 all-time in the  Northeast Conference tournament, winning one match each of the last two seasons.  The Pioneers are making their fourth consecutive tournament appearance and fifth in six years.  SHU is 2-1 in NEC tournament history against its first round opponent Central Connecticut State.  The Pioneers have dispatched CCSU each of the last two seasons.  However, Sacred Heart is 0-2 versus Long Island in the playoffs, losing  the 2009 title game and a 2008 semifinal match to the Blackbirds.  Robert Morris has met SHU just once in the postseason, knocking out the Pioneers in the first round in 2007. 

Scouting #2 Robert Morris...  The Colonials defeated the Pioneers two weeks ago and controlled its own destiny heading into the final weekend of the regular season.  But a loss to Saint Francis (PA) in their final match dropped Robert Morris to the second seed. Hannah Veith leads the Colonial attack with 2.42 kills per set.  However, the block has been the Colonials primary weapon in 2010.  RMU leads the conference with 2.66 blocks per set, which ranks 21st in the nation.

SHU vs. The Colonials...  The Pioneers and Robert Morris both defended its home court in their meetings this season.  Sacred Heart got 15 kills from Mercado in its four set win in Fairfield, CT.  The Colonials used 17 blocks in five sets to down SHU in Moon Township, PA

Scouting #3 Long Island...  The Blackbirds can never be counted out in the postseason, as the six-time defending conference champions were picked again as the preseason favorite in 2010.  A new look Blackbird team has seen freshman Hanna Gibeau pace the squad with 3.94 kills per set, 4.33 versus conference opponents.  LIU is just 1-5 against the three other tournament teams picking up a single win against CCSU earlier this season.

SHU vs. The Blackbirds... Sacred Heart beat up on the defending NEC champs in 2010, recording a pair of 3-0 sweeps.  Mercado hammered home 17 kills in the regular season finale with the Blackbirds to clinch the NEC regular season title.

Scouting #4 Central Connecticut State...  The Blue Devils have essentially already won a playoff game in 2010 as they defeated Quinnipiac in a must-win scenario in the regular season finale.  Central Connecticut State won three of its final four matches to reach the NEC tournament.  Sara Delacey is the most potent CCSU hitter averaging 2.14 kills per set along with a .311 hitting percentage.

SHU vs. The Blue Devils ... The Pioneers swept CCSU early in the season but edged out a five set win in New Britain, CT in the final week of the season.  In that match SHU rallied from a 12-9 deficit in the final set while Sage led the attack with 20 total kills.