Women’s Soccer Sets Sights on NEC Playoff Return with Young Roster

BY: HEATHER KELLER

Sports Editor

After five straight games on the road to start the Sacred Heart University women’s soccer season, the Pioneers were finally able to compete on their home turf at Campus Field on Sept. 7.

Being on the road after practicing on their home field for a month of preseason had its own set of disadvantages that the athletes had to work through. The team’s upperclassmen were called upon to guide the freshmen through the process of being the visiting team.

“It’s hard to start out being away because the team is just getting into the swing of things and you have to adjust to traveling, bus rides, and sitting,” said junior captain Danielle Karpiej. “After our first away weekend we started seeing progress in our games. Now that we’ve had so many away games and we’ve gotten them out of the way, we’re really excited to be able to play at home.”

Head coach Kim Banner was aware that welcoming the underclassmen players and getting the athletes comfortable with each other before the season was just as important as playing soccer itself.

“With the team being fairly young there was a lot of focus on team chemistry during preseason,” said Banner. “We also worked on toning up the basics and made sure everyone was on the same page to start the season.”

Along with team bonding, the Pioneers have been working on cohesiveness between all positions on the field to improve their overall strategy and ability to play well.

“Playing consistently well together is one of our goals right now,” said junior captain Alex Mesropyan.

The team has faced a variety of non conference opponents during the beginning of the season, as is the case every year. The team anxiously awaits the start of conference play.

“As our record stands we haven’t been able to win many games, but right now our focus is on coming together, moving forward and dealing with those losses,” said senior captain Kim McNally.

Northeast Conference (NEC) games begin for the Pioneers on Sept. 29 at Saint Francis University. The team has their sights set on growing during nonconference games and getting back to the playoffs at the conclusion of their fall schedule.

“It was such a good feeling to get to the playoffs last year. Having such a young team means that we should be able to get back to where we were,” said Karpiej. “Everyone sets little goals at the beginning of the season and putting them into practice during games is important.”

The upperclassmen and coaches have seen the excitement of NEC playoff competition in years past and they hope to provide that same experience for the freshmen this season.

“I’d like to see the upperclassmen lead by example. We have a good team returning back from last year, so I’d really like to get back to where we were and then obviously do even better,” said Banner. “There are a few freshmen who are really stepping up and we’re excited to see how it’s going to pan out in conference play.”

The Pioneers will open conference play at home on Campus Field Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. against Mount St. Mary’s.

Women’s Rugby Kicks Off Third Season as NCAA Varsity Program

BY: HEATHER KELLER

Sports Editor

The Sacred Heart University women’s rugby team began its fall season with two wins against Castleton University and Molloy College, both played at Park Avenue Field on Sept. 1 and Sept. 9, respectively.

Park Avenue Field was built through a partnership with the Sacred Heart University and Notre Dame Catholic High School athletic departments. The turf field is regulation for soccer and rugby. The Sacred Heart University men’s and women’s soccer teams and women’s rugby team utilize this field as their home.

“As a program, we really enjoy the new field, it’s regulation size for rugby, meaning it’s wider than most fields we play on so we have an advantage of conditioning and being more fit when we play other programs,” said head women’s rugby coach, Michelle Reed. “It’s an actual lined rugby field so there is a sense of pride to be able to walk on that field and to know that it’s our home field and it looks good.”

Having a space of their own to build the rugby program is valuable to the team and has proven to be an advantage already as the team starts the season with a 2-0 record.

“It’s nice to get wins under your belt so that once we move on to more competitive teams we kind of have a confidence about us, and know we already have experience working together in a competitive setting and not just practice,” said sophomore, Allie Rinaldi.

Working together and creating a bond between the returning players and the freshmen recruits proved to be vital to the early success for the program. The program added seven new athletes to the roster this fall in hopes of continuing expansion of the team.

“Being our second year of bringing in our own recruits, it’s fun to watch our freshmen really mesh with our program so well. We only have three upperclassmen so the freshmen and sophomore classes in the past two years have come together,” said Reed. “The underclassmen have brought a lot to the table in terms of rugby knowledge and athleticism, and you can see it on the field.”

The athletes have accepted the responsibility of making the freshmen feel welcome since the beginning of preseason. Returning athletes understand that these new athletes are the future of the program. There are a lot of talented freshmen and that has made the team excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for them.

“It’s been very easy to bring the freshmen in and make them a part of the team immediately. We focused on a lot of team bonding and getting to know everybody during preseason,” said sophomore, Kaylee Hale. “Basically, half of our team is brand new to Sacred Heart so if we’re able to know one another and have trust we’ll hopefully be able to perform well together.”

The Pioneers are scheduled to face Castleton and Molloy once again later this season, but the athletes have their sights set on their match against Bowdoin College on Sept. 23. The Pioneers were defeated 99-0 by the Polar Bears in Oct. 2016. The Pioneers are looking forward to a better match this season and are hoping for a better outcome.

“After the game, we had against them last year, we’re excited to play them again and hopefully beat them this time,” said Hale.

The Pioneers have a variety of goals this season, but their main goal is to execute team values and characters as a program.

“We value each human being and we invite diversity onto the team. We want people from all backgrounds and we’re accepting of that,” said Reed. “We know if we do that and we have that character built into our team culture, winning will come, but first we have to start with a team foundation.”

Club Triathlon and Ultimate Frisbee Now at Sacred Heart

By Ryan Touhey

Co-Sports Editor

The Sacred Heart University Club Sports Department has officially instituted two more sports—club Triathlon and club Ultimate Frisbee. With these additions, there are now 29 club sport teams at Sacred Heart.

Triathlon is a combination of physical activities that include running, biking and swimming. Ultimate is a team sport which involves passing a flying disc to an end zone in order to score points. Ray Mencio, the Director of Sacred Heart Club Sports, hopes that these sports will appeal to students and get them more involved on campus.

“We (Club Sports Dept.) gage what interest there is out there for our sports,” said Mencio. “With Triathlon, it’s more of an emerging sport in terms of people generally wanting to try new things.”   

Sophomore and club hockey forward Mike Barnych, believes that the direction that club sports is undertaking will receive positive feedback from the student body.

“I think it’s good that they’re branching out more into different sports than just the traditional ones,” said Barnych. “I personally like how they’re going to go into Triathlon, but I think that Ultimate Frisbee is going to be a bit more popular.”

Unlike the other club sport teams, Triathlon and Ultimate will be operated differently. They both do not have an official head coach. Instead, the student leaders will work cohesively with the Club Sports Department in running the teams.

“It’s a different method that we take with some of our newer sports,” said Mencio. “There are less head coaches out there for sports that are a little bit different.”

The Club Sports Department had considered bringing in Triathlon last year and Ultimate had been a club sport before. However, lack of interest led to the disappearances of both sports.

Interest resurfaced for Ultimate on Aug. 31. The Club Sports Department hosted an Ultimate event under the lights at Campus Field.

“We had a lot of students come out and the students that were involved really wanted to start a team up again,” said Mencio. “We told them that if they had enough interest, we can definitely give it a shot.”

Since then, those students have remained committed to their goal of gaining interest for Ultimate. One of those students is sophomore Joshua Belluche, who wanted to play the sport since he first arrived at Sacred Heart.

“When I realized that they (Sacred Heart) didn’t have a team here or even for intramurals, I knew that that was something my friends and I wanted to start,” said Belluche.

Belluche likes the competitive nature of playing Ultimate. The community aspect, however, is what draws him to the sport.

“I find that a lot of sports can be very competitive but also very aggressive,” said Belluche. “Frisbee isn’t that and I think that’s one of the reasons I really like playing.”

As of now, Ultimate is only undergoing practices. They need to play at least 10 games next season in order to be recognized as an official team by the non-profit organization, USA Ultimate. According to their website, USA Ultimate is the official governing body for Ultimate in the United States.

Students are able to register for both sports online by visiting the Sacred Heart Club Sports website: www.dosportseasy.com. There is no limit to how many students can play on one team.

 

Tyler Endee Named NFC Fencer of the Year

Sacred Heart junior, Tyler Endee, was named NFC fencer of the year. Photo by Sacred Heart Athletics.

By Kendall Clark

Staff Reporter

The Sacred Heart University co-ed Division I fencing team has completed another
successful season. They finished with a high ranking in tournaments, having fencers named to the all-conference team as well as having the conference fencer of the year, junior Tyler Endee, on the team.

“The achievement itself is fantastic, I’m extraordinarily happy with it. It’s something that I worked for this season very intently. I did the best that I could and I did it. So I’m very happy,” said Endee.

Though this is a prestigious accomplishment, Endee was more focused on giving back.

“What drives me? More so than anything, it’s to make others happy. I think I fence for my parents, my friends, my coach. So if I can fence and make them happy then that drives me,” said Endee.

No one is happier than the coach of the team, Yury Molchan.

“I was very proud of him because he showed how he can work together with his team. He is very brave; he can go from the beginning of the competition to the end of the competition. Not many people can do that and that’s why I’m very proud of him,” said Molchan.

Molchan’s motto is heart and integrity. He wants all of his fencers working hard but not taking any shortcuts. One can only achieve if he or she is willing to work for it.

“Yes, I would say that Tyler is a leader. Just based upon how he carries himself during practice and competitions, whether it’s leading in practice, or leading in tournaments. Tyler is always leading,” said Molchan.

Molchan had twelve of his fencers make the conference team and he wants more.

“Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. The better recruiting, the more titles. This is key,” said Molchan.

Sophomore Dante Centeno also views Endee as a leader.

“He’s a great leader who shows hard work and dedication to the team. He gives us all a helping hand when we need it, he’s a great leader and role model for us to follow, which makes us work harder for the goal of becoming fencer of the year,” said Centeno.

Endee’s spirit is rubbing off on his teammates.

“From a competitive standpoint, I really am aiming to be the best I can be on the fencing team. Tyler exemplifies that by having a 29-1 record, which motivates me to work even harder next year and to make it a priority that I win about every time I go out to fence,” said Centeno.

With another year to go, Endee is hoping for a big senior season.

“If I could go 29-1 again that would be perfect, if I could win conference fencer of the year again that would be perfect, but if I made it to NCAA’s then that would be the perfect way to end my career at Sacred Heart,” said Endee.

Bobby Valentine Receives the Joe DiMaggio Award

Executive Athletic Director, Bobby Valentine, receives Joe DiMaggio award for his work as a community leader. Photo by Ryan Touhey/Spectrum.

By Ryan Touhey

Staff Reporter

For the past 16 years, the Joe DiMaggio Award has recognized community leaders who have helped other people who are less fortunate. This year’s recipient was Sacred Heart University’s Executive Athletic Director, Bobby Valentine.

Valentine was honored with the award at its annual dinner event on April 5 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. The purpose of the event was to raise scholarship dollars for underprivileged boys and girls of New York.

“It was one of the great honors of my life,” said Valentine.

The event was cosponsored by the Columbus Citizens Foundation and its affiliate, the Futures in Education.

According to its website, the Foundation is a non-profit New York City organization which works to assist Italian-American students through scholarships and grant programs. The foundation presents over $2 million in scholarships for students to go to high school each year. It also works events such as New York City’s Columbus Day Parade.

According to the Futures in Education website, the Joe DiMaggio Award was created in 1999. It was named in the ballplayer’s memory because of his support in the education for students with learning disabilities.

Being a former Major Leaguer and having Italian heritage like DiMaggio, Valentine feels that he can relate to the award.

“I knew Joe DiMaggio and he played during the same time as my father-in-law Ralph Branca,” said Valentine.

Branca was a Major League pitcher who pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees. In the 1947 World Series, while he was with the Dodgers, he faced the Yankees and DiMaggio.

“Joe D. was 0 for 2 and that was always the start of the conversation when we were all together,” said Valentine.

According to the Futures in Education, broadcaster Bob Costas and former Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera are other sports personalities who have received the award. Like Valentine, they were recognized for their community involvement.

According to the Sacred Heart website, Valentine’s worked as a philanthropist including serving as Student Council President of Rippowam High School in Stamford, Conn. He has also created scholarship funds of his own such as the Mickey Lione, Jr. Scholarship Fund.

According to the Fund’s website, the scholarship is given to student-athletes who give back to the community off of the field.

Valentine’s coworkers believe that his ability and determination to connect with others is what propelled him to winning the award.

“He continues to say, ‘What can I do for you?’” said Nicholas Wormley, Executive Director for University Advancement. “I think Bobby has people around him that are so engaged in different areas.”

Valentine has explored different areas outside of the United States. After his first year as Executive Athletic Director, Valentine and baseball head coach Nick Giaquinto traveled to Japan in August of 2014. The two of them went there as a part of a cultural community service project.

Giaquinto said that they were accompanied by a U14 All-Star baseball team from
Connecticut. The team participated in a baseball tournament against Japanese teams
and also participated in volunteer work. The work involved cleaning up debris on beaches that still remained from the 2011 Tōhoku tsunami.

“He [Valentine] gives so much of his time and he knows so much about so many things,” said Brad Hurlbut, Deputy Athletic Director. “There aren’t a lot of athletic directors out there who are as prominent as Bobby Valentine.”

The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez Ends With Suicide

Aaron Hernandez was found dead in his cell on April 19. Photo by AP.

By Shawn Sailer & Alexandra Padalino

Co-Sports Editor

Former National Football League player Aaron Hernandez was found hanged in his prison cell at 3 a.m. on April 19 at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Mass. He was pronounced dead at University of Massachusetts Memorial-Health Alliance Hospital in Leominster about an hour later.

His death was ruled a suicide.

Hernandez, 27, hanged himself using a bed sheet attached to a cell window. This was the first reported suicide by hanging at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, a
maximum security prison.

The ex-New England Patriots tight end was serving a life-sentence for a 2013 murder of ex-friend Odin Lloyd. He was acquitted of a double-murder charge on April 12 from a 2012 incident in Boston.

“I think it is very tragic what happened. It’s very sad to see what he did to himself. I feel bad for the Lloyd family because they won’t get the justice they deserve,” said sophomore Brandon Levesque.

Despite his greatness on the field, Hernandez had many off-the-field issues that led to his demise. His teenage years sparked the life of a violent criminal.

Hernandez was a football player with untapped potential. Below is a timeline of Hernandez’s triumphs and tragedies prior to his suicide:

— Jan. 6, 2006: Hernandez’s father died from complications from a surgery. Hernandez is a 16-year-old student at Bristol Central High School at the time. He later admitted he turned to drugs after his father’s death.

— September 2007: Hernandez attends the University of Florida after being named Connecticut’s Football Player of the Year as a high school senior.

— June 8, 2010: Hernandez, drafted in the fourth round, signs a four-year contract with the New England Patriots. At 20 years old, he’s the youngest player on active roster in the NFL that coming season.

— June 26, 2013: Hernandez is arrested on a murder charge in Lloyd’s slaying and taken from his home in handcuffs. He later pleads not guilty. The Patriots release him hours after his arrest.

— May 15, 2014: Hernandez is indicted on two counts of first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the shootings of de Abreu and Furtado. Prosecutors say Hernandez was angry because de Abreu accidentally bumped into him at a nightclub while dancing, spilling his drink.

— Jan. 9, 2015: Hernandez goes on trial for murder in Lloyd’s killing.

— April 15, 2015: Hernandez is convicted of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.

Hernandez, a member of the Patriots from 2010-2012 helped lead the Patriots to a Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, where the team lost to the New York Giants. He also won the BCS National Championship in 2009 with Florida. That year, Hernandez received the John Mackey Award, which is given to the best tight end in college football each year.

While it was originally reported that Hernandez did not leave any suicide notes, it
appears that three suicide notes and a bible were left in the prison cell. Hernandez also wrote a bible verse “John 3:16” on his forehead.

According to Fox News, the words were written with a red marker and a Bible was left open to the lines of the passage in the Bible. The verse reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

“I think that him using suicide to escape his life of punishment for his horrible actions is unfair to the people he hurt, and for people with mental health issues that contemplate suicide every day because of their pain,” said junior Rebecca Lee.

On the same day that Hernandez was found dead, his former team visited the White House following their Super Bowl LI victory.

“Some of the media is making a big deal out of it, making it sound like a sad story. It’s really not. He is a murderer. He messed up. He had everything and he threw it all away,” said sophomore Patriots fan Yanni Papadopoulous.

Boston University researchers will study Hernandez’s brain to determine if he suffered from the same degenerative brain disease as Hall of Famer Junior Seau and former Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, who also took their own lives. That brain disease is chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE.

Hernandez is survived by his longtime fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins and their four year old daughter.

“I think it’s a story of someone who had so much more to give in life, but he could not escape his past connections even with the money and fame. It is sad for a daughter that will grow up without a father,” said senior Chris Butler.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Men’s Golf Places Eighth at “Til Duty Is Done Collegiate Invitational”

Sacred Heart men’s golf team played Til Duty is Done collegiate invitational on April 14 and 15. Photo by Sacred Heart athletics.

By Mark Morales

Staff Reporter

The Sacred Heart University men’s golf team played in an invitational on April 14
and April 15 at the Mohegan Sun Golf Club in Baltic, Conn. The men came in eighth place.

The invitational was hosted by the University of Connecticut and was called “Til Duty Is Done Collegiate Invitational.”

The tournament is named in honor of the Til Duty Is Done organization. They are a non-profit company based in Connecticut. Their goal is to provide safe, secure and stable housing for returning veterans. Til Duty Is Done’s main aim is to reduce homelessness and unemployment with returning veterans.

“The tournament was great; it was a special tournament because the vets were involved.  The final round I got to play with someone from the air force. It was really cool to spend time with them because they didn’t get the chance to play college golf. We had questions for them, they had questions for us,” said sophomore Jacob Henny.

As for the course itself, there were some challenging aspects throughout the event.

“There was a stretch of holes, one through four, that were a pretty tough stretch of holes. They were a little bit longer with smaller greens so it made it a little bit tough but once you got through that stretch, you kind of got into a set of scoring holes,” said junior Matthew Shubley.

The only negative thing both men had to say about the tournament was that the wind played a huge factor throughout the event.

“Three of the rounds were pretty windy so it was hard to judge the wind especially because it was blowing across on some holes but it was definitely good to have those three rounds before conference just to know what we had to work on this week,” said Shubley.

The uncontrollable factors are what made the tournament difficult.

“The course itself wasn’t too difficult but the conditions, like the wind, made it tough,” said Henry.

Although both men enjoyed the tournament with the veterans, they both have some work to do before the postseason begins.

“I’ve been out from May until March with a series of injuries. So just getting back in the competitive setting again is something that I need to improve upon. This is only the second tournament I played in the past 10 months so I think I did okay around the green. Stroking was great, putting was good but ball striking was a little suspect,” said Henny.

With the postseason looming just a week away, it seems like confidence will be the biggest task for the team moving ahead.

“For the playoffs, team wise it’s going to come down to confidence and knowing that we can compete and win,” said Shubley.

The men’s golf team will begin their postseason on April 28.

“In my opinion, we should be favored going into conference,” said Henny.

Football Team Preps for Season With Spring Game

Sacred Heart University’s football team playing in their annual red versus white spring scrimmage. Photo by Ryan Touhey/Spectrum.

By Jack Sullivan

Staff Reporter

On April 8, the Sacred Heart University football team had their annual Spring Red Versus White scrimmage. Coach Mark Nofri and his team prepare for the 2017 fall season with this as their last event open to the public.

The teams were split with offense wearing red and defense in white. Although they were split into their respective teams, the guys were just happy to be out there playing football again.

“It’s April 8, we got work to do,” said Nofri. “It’s a process and we got work to do and we got to do it to get ready for the season.”

Immediately when they hit the field, the team was ready to show the crowd how hard they have been working this spring.

“I loved the energy and I loved the comradery of the guys,” said Nofri. “I like our senior leadership and some of the freshmen and showing us what they can do this spring.”

The scrimmage was split into different parts throughout the day. The team started off with combined team warm ups. Then they had a red versus white scrimmage with 11 versus 11 play and also a split with the seven on seven play to look more closely at certain positions and how the guys match up.

“The kids pull for one another and they are competitive,” said Nofri. “We talk about it all the time, to be a good football team we have to be a good player, you got to have team chemistry and be emotional and that is one thing the guys did today.”

Upcoming junior quarterback Kevin Duke participated in the spring game as the QB1 for the red team.

“We came out and we battled and it didn’t go our way,” said Duke. “Defense came out and played well and the offense didn’t execute well enough. It is a good thing though because it’s a spring game and we have the summer to clean things up before August.”

Duke isn’t looking for accolades or high personal statistics this season, it’s just about him and his relationship with his team.

“I want to go out there, play my hardest, have fun, and be out there playing with the guys,” said Duke. “I want our guys to understand that at any moment the game or play can be taken away from us and that we need to execute the way we want to win.”

At the spring scrimmage, the captains of the 2017 season were announced.

Duke was one of the captains selected. Upcoming senior Kevin Barry, fifth-year senior Ose Imeokaria, senior CJ Paravelus and junior Andrew O’Niell were also awarded this leadership role for their team.

Becoming a captain and obtaining a leadership role for the team was a goal that Duke had.

“It’s an honor in itself, being the guy on the team that wants to lead the team, and this season that’s what I am going to do,” said Duke.

Sacred Heart won back to back conference titles in the 2013-14 season, and that is one of Nofri’s goals for the upcoming season.

“I would like to win the NEC title again and get my third, and bring another one home,” said Nofri. “I want to see my kids do well on and off the field, I want us to be a smart, disciplined football team.”

Nofri takes pride in his team and what they stand for, as well as the legacy of the team.

“I want people to know that Sacred Heart is not a one or two year wonder team,” said Nofri. “I want us to be consistent and be a winning team in the NEC and have my kids represent Sacred Heart the best they can.”

Women’s Rugby Wins Inaugural “Pioneer Sevens” Tournament

Women’s rugby team comes together as a team to win “Pioneer seven” tournament. Photo by Sacred Heart Athletics.

By Kendall Clark

Staff Reporter

The Sacred Heart University Women’s Rugby team hosted their inaugural “Pioneer Sevens” tournament on April 1. Yale and Fairfield were the other teams to compete in the tournament.

After defeating Fairfield 24-0 in the first round, then Yale 34-0 in the second round, the Pioneers would then go on to defeat Fairfield for a second time, 29-5 in the championship game.

“It was a great feeling. It’s nice to see all the hard work that we did in the fall and in the spring finally pay off,” said senior Kate McNicholas.

McNicholas realizes the importance of practice and credits all of the extra hours they put in as a key to success.

“It’s really about putting practice to the field. Once you realize that what we do in practice and lift translates to the field, then the game gets easy,” said McNicholas.

Others on the team continued to talk about how proud they were of their teammates and all of their hardwork that was displayed on the field.

“It was really cool to win the tournament. Just because I feel as if we’ve made a lot of progress from the beginning of the year to now. Coming into a D1 program is really cool because I played in high school, but it was just a club team. So we didn’t have the resources we have now, so I’m very thankful,” said freshman Allie Rinaldi.

Rinaldi was sure that this tournament victory was not the ceiling of this team moving forward.

“We’re a very young team. We just became varsity in the last two years. So I think we have a lot of potential and we can be a very good team. The more recruits we get, the more we’ll be able to build the team, the more we’ll build the culture,” said Rinaldi.

Part of that culture is teamwork and the players ability to come together when it matters most.

“It’s the team as a whole. We’ve been together a lot. Both fall and spring season. I think that our chemistry and playing well together has really allowed us to have the success so far,” said freshman Kaylee Hale.

Just like Rinaldi, Hale was determined to get better and continue to work on her skills.

“It goes with practicing hard. It feels good to win, we just have to keep hitting practices hard. Doing what we need to do. Making sure we execute everything that we talk about. If we keeping doing those things then we can keep getting better,” said Hale.

Head coach Michelle Reed was as proud and motivated as the players were.

“It was our goal [to win the tournament] when we started off in the spring. To win our sevens tournament. It was the very first one. We spent a lot of time focusing on wanting to succeed in that. When we played our first game, I knew we were going to win because it was the best we’ve ever played,” said Reed.

Reed is proud of every one of her players and feels confident enough to put any girl in at any moment of the game.

“The system may change, but the product doesn’t,” said Reed.

Pioneer Club Softball Advances to Regional Tournament

By Nicholas Troiano

Staff Reporter

Sacred Heart University’s club softball team has won their first NCSA North Atlantic North Conference title in program history. This gives the team an automatic bid into the regional tournament in Danville, PA.

The Pioneers have now qualified for the regional tournament four straight seasons.

In the past three seasons, the team has had to sneak and fight their way into the playoffs. This year they get the benefit of knowing that they have clinched a spot in the tournament.

“To win our conference’s division title for the first time in program history was a huge honor that I am incredibly grateful to be apart of. As a senior, it was a very satisfying to see all the hard work we have been putting in these last four years finally starting to pay off in our division,” said senior Kristen Chacho.

The team takes pride in their constancy of making the district tournament, it shows how much hard work and dedication they have put in over the years.

“Making it to the regional tournament really does mean a lot to us as a team because it shows the consistency of our program and how extremely talented our team really is,” said sophomore Stefani Antoshak. “It also gives us the opportunity to extend our season until the World Series in Georgia, which is an amazing experience, especially for our seniors on our team.”

The Pioneers have developed their consistency through their senior leadership, along with working as a collective unit by never blaming teammates for mistakes.

“The girls themselves with the senior leadership and hard work have maintained an elite level of success. We have a great group of women that came together on a mission that they wanted to go through together,” said head coach Ray Mencio.

They attribute their success to their strong sense of teamwork.

“The main reason why the team has been so successful this season is because of the amazing chemistry we have together. Our club softball team is a family, everyone gets along and everyone supports each other whether it is on or off the bench,” said sophomore Julia Collins.

Along with the chemistry and cohesiveness, the team has strengths in other areas that include hitting, pitching and fielding.

“We are very balanced and perform well in all areas, this gives us confidence as a unit because there isn’t one area we really struggle in,” said Mencio.

Mencio along with the girls on the team believe that they have what it takes to make a deep run in the regional tournament.

“We truly work as one unit, and have such chemistry with each other that anything we put our mind to is possible. All we can do is hope for the best and play with our heads held high and nothing can stop us from being number one,“ said senior Alexa Cozzarelli.

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