Softball Team Hoping Senior Class Provides ‘Home Run’ Season

Sacred Heart softball team gears up for a successful season. Photo by Sacred Heart Athletics.

By Nicholas Troiano 

Staff Reporter

The Sacred Heart University softball team is heading into the 2017 season with high hopes on making it to the Northeastern Conference (NEC) playoffs.

Despite a 13-34-2 record last season, the team is ready and determined to improve as a group in order to have a winning record this season.

The players are also looking to improve on a conference record of 4-12 from last season.

They are looking to improve their .223 batting average from the year prior.

“Our weakness was hitting, which included a low batting average combined with low quality at bats. During the off season we worked on being more aggressive, not being selfish, and moving runners over,” said head coach Pam London.

The offseason work that the players have done is going to be essential to the success of the season.

“Some of the main issues from last season were that we lacked good team chemistry and didn’t play together as a team the way we wanted to,” said senior Kelyn Fillmore. “The team is determined to leave all the selfish softball behind them as they move into the 2017 campaign with a new mindset of working together as one collective unit.”

In addition to this, the team looks to build off the strengths of last season, which included leadership and pitching.

“The strengths of our team is the leadership of our seniors. The experiences that they have been through allow them to be able share knowledge with the younger players,” said London.

London added that the experiences from the seniors will allow them to be ready for a NEC playoff run.

Regardless of  needing to improve in certain areas, the team has one strong and clear goal in mind.

“Our goal is to improve our record from last season, make it to NEC conference, and to perform up to our potential,” said junior Lauren Delgadillo.

The team backed up their word with their actions as they participated in the Buffalo Wild Wings Classic tournament on Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 in Greenville, S.C.

“We gained a lot of confidence during the tournament which is proving that our hard work is paying off. We need to produce offensively to take the pressure off our pitching,” said London.

Despite losing in the first game of the tournament, the team did much better than they expected to as they had 43 hits in just four games.

“We went into the tournament wanting to play together and stay positive and we did that. Also we hit much better than we thought we were going to,” said freshman
Kathleen Christian.

London and the players are looking forward to building off the hitting success of the tournament in order to reach their potential in the NEC.

“We want to prove to everyone doubting us that we are a strong threat in the NEC,” said Fillmore.

Women’s Lacrosse Expecting Strong Season: Pioneers Hope to Build Off Last Year’s Success

By Nick Troiano

Staff Reporter

The Sacred Heart University women’s lacrosse team has high expectations for the 2016-17 season.

Coming off a loss in the playoffs in double overtime last season, the team is determined to make it back.

The team is ranked fourth in the Northeast Conference (NEC) preseason poll, which ranks the tops teams in the conference heading into the season. The Pioneers reached the NEC tournament for the first time since 2012 last season, losing to Bryant in the semifinals.

The team is attempting to build on a season that helped players get experience in the playoffs, which they hope will translate into an even better 2017 campaign.

“Our goal is to win the NEC tournament and get back to our winning ways, ultimately clinching a berth into the NCAA tournament,” said head coach Laura Cook.

The Pioneers are confident in their team and that this season will be better than the last.

“All the freshman that came in fit in right away and became close on and off the field, continuously working to get better and better everyday,” said senior Caitlin Delaney.

As the team moves forward into the season, they are building on the strengths of their team from a year ago.

“We have great leadership and great work ethic that is led by our nine seniors. We know how it feels to make it far into the playoffs and come up short, this will only make us better,” said Cook.

Sacred Heart has worked on sustaining their defense during the off-season.

“We trust each other out there, especially on the defense side. I know everyone on the team has my back and I have theirs,” said senior Alyssa Pearce.

This trust and cohesiveness, according to Pearce, is what is going to make the team successful this season.

One of the biggest things the team looks to improve on from last year is building on the weaknesses of the team.

“We needed to learn how to win tough games and deal with adversity, we were a young and inexperienced team last season, but losing in the semifinals got us the experience for this season,” said Cook.

With the team being fourth in preseason ranking, the Pioneers are fighting to not be over looked.

“I feel like we should be ranked higher. I think we are being slept on and we need to feed off being an underdog. We are better than people think,” said Pearce.

Equestrian Team Season Heading to Strong Finish

Junior Melissa Dancer placed 3rd in open fences section B. Photo courtesy of William Marlow.

Junior Melissa Dancer placed 3rd in open fences section B. Photo courtesy of William Marlow.

By Jack Sullivan

Staff Reporter

On Feb. 19, the Sacred Heart University equestrian team finished their regular season for Western competition finishing as Zone 1 Regional Championship for the third year in a row.

The Hunt Seat team will be competing in their last regular season show on March 4, currently leading the region by 30 points. They are hopeful in clinching the regional title as well.

Coach Tiffany Hajdasz attributes this seasons success to hard working student athletes.

“Every season is different as the student-athletes are different, which makes the team dynamics different,” said Hajdasz. “Our current team members are the most cohesive we have had in many years. They are willing to put the goals of the team first, before their personal goals. They hold each other accountable and raise the standard of expectation from within.”

Senior Abigail Williams finished as High Point rider in Western competition during their double header Feb. 18 at Mount Holyoke College, as well as during their Feb. 19 show at the University of Connecticut.

Williams earned first in Open Horsemanship and second in Open Reining.

“Winning High Point rider was very exciting and motivated myself and others on the team to keep up our momentum,” said Williams.

Hunt Seat rider, junior Melissa Dander, earned High Point rider Feb. 5 at Trinity College.

The Pioneers also finished as High Point team during their Feb. 5 competition.

“We currently are leading our region and I hope our team continues to strive for excellence,” said Dander. “Advancing to Zones, and even Nationals, is within our reach and I would really love to see our team go all the way to Kentucky in May for Nationals.”

Winning isn’t the main goal for the Equestrian team.

“This season has never been about winning,” said Hajdasz. “It’s been about appreciating the opportunities we have been given and making the best of those opportunities.”

Hajdasz and her team set goals in the beginning of the season, improving horsemanship for the love of the sport.

These  goals include completing 720 hours of community service as a team, maintaining a GPA over 3.3, improving mental focus and positive attitudes, as well as paying attention to detail.

The team finds ways to inspire and motivate each other to be good teammates with the help of their coaching staff.

Hajdasz takes pride in her team and her staff to making sure they reach their goals for the season.

“Our coaching staff is dedicated to the personal and athletic growth of our student-athletes. We’ve been in their shoes and we feel we are lucky to be on the journey with them,” said Hajdasz.

Williams and Dander have similar individual goals for the rest of the season.

They would like to keep their leads for their respective squad in Zone 1, Region 5 in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) for the Cacchione Cup and AQHA High Point rider.

That title is given to one rider per region with the most points competing in the open division and then goes to Nationals.

Williams achieved that goal and has earned an automatic bye to Nationals in Lexington, Ky. this May.

The Pioneers will be competing in Western Semi-Finals in Raleigh, N.C. this March.

Men’s Volleyball Set for Big Season

By Mark Morales

Staff Reporter

The Sacred Heart University men’s volleyball team is 7-1 in their last eight games. Their most recent win was on Feb. 5 against Lincoln Memorial, which they won 3-1. With that victory, the Pioneers win streak is at four.

The team has yet to play on the road this season.

Home court advantage is not only important, but it helps the team.

“When we’re home, we have so much more down time, we can relax and plan out our days. Whereas when we’re away, we’re doing work, team things most of the time,” said senior Christopher DeLucie.

Increased energy has helped the Pioneers during their win streak.

“It’s definitely helped us get into a rhythm so that we can kind of find a cycle of what we need to do in the warm up and definitely help us find a casual cool environment instead of having to do it on the road and figure things out in an uncomfortable spot,” said senior Doug Dzema.

The Pioneers attributed a lot of their success to their head coach, Gregory Walker.

“First I would definitely attribute it to Coach Walker coming in and having a plan and running a system he feels is our best chance of succeeding,” said DeLucie. “Just with the beginning of our season we see that the system that Coach Walker has been putting together is working, we have been succeeding.”

The Pioneers have their first conference away game on Friday, Feb. 17 against Saint Francis University. When asked about how they will continue their win streak on the road, the men preached practice and hard work.

“It’s just going to come down to if we keep working hard in the gym. From preseason to now we have been working really hard. Everybody’s been coming in focused and that’s obviously showing on the court,” said Ayzenberg.

Last season held many injuries and the team hopes to not be hindered with so many this season.

“I know coming out of last season we had a lot of health issues and injuries. The team wasn’t at full strength,” said DeLucie.

So with the new season underway and everyone healthy, the 2017 men’s volleyball team has high expectations.

“I feel like we match pretty well with the conference this year. If we continue to work hard in the gym I feel like we can compete with almost anyone going at a high level and hopefully do something big this year,” said DeLucie.

Women’s Bowling Looking for Strong Finish: High-Ranked Pioneers Hoping for Postseason Success

Sacred Heart University women's bowling team ranked #10 in the NTCA coaches association poll. Photo by Sacred Heart Athletics.

Sacred Heart University women’s bowling team ranked #10 in the NTCA coaches association poll. Photo by Sacred Heart Athletics.

By Ryan Touhey

Staff Reporter

The Sacred Heart University women’s bowling team is currently one of the top ranked teams in the nation. With their season down to its final two months, they look to prove why.

The National Tenpin Coaches Association Poll (NTCA) ranked Sacred Heart tenth in the nation during its February poll. According to its website, the NTCA is a promoter of NCAA Women’s Bowling. Being ranked in the Top-10 was among Sacred Heart’s main goals that they had hoped to accomplish this season.

“It’s great to be ranked,” said senior Amanda Tyrrell. “We’ve worked really hard for it because once you’ve reached the eight, nine, or ten-level, you get to be called a bubble-team for Nationals.”

Sacred Heart was ranked fourteenth by the NTCA for its preseason poll. The season started off with the team winning their SHU Bowl for the Cure Tournament for the first time in its three years of existence.

“Winning that is a great start to the season because you also have the ability to have single-winners as well. We do have a singles-tournament after the team tournament,” said Tyrrell.

Sacred Heart went 14-4 during October, which included them finishing second at the FDU NJ Jamboree. Senior Sarah Rhodes was the team’s highest singles finisher for the tournament, and felt that the Jamboree proved the team’s unity.

“That was kind of the start-off to our NCAA competition,” said Rhodes. “We definitely started on the right foot, coming in at second in a tournament where top teams in the nation were competing as well.”

Sacred Heart was ranked 11th by the NTCA in November. When conference play started in December, the team took off. They won the first Northeast Conference Tournament on the weekend of Dec. 2, by going undefeated with a 10-0 record against their conference rivals.

“It really cemented how great of a team that we know we are, and we just happened to prove it that weekend,” said Tyrrell.

Head coach Becky Kregling also felt that the tournament set the tone for the rest of the season.

“It was a huge momentum builder,” said Kregling.

After going 9-6 in January, Sacred Heart started off February by travelling to Houston, Texas to compete at the 2017 SFA Jacks Invitational.

The tournament was held on the weekend of Feb. 10 and consisted of many of the nation’s top bowling teams. These included Arkansas State, Tulane and Stephen F. Austin State University, who are the defending National Champions.

The tournament teams were divided into two pools, The Purple Pool and the White Pool. Sacred Heart was a member of the White Pool, along with fellow Northeast Conference member, LIU Brooklyn.

“It’s a strong field. It can make or break you,” said Kregling.

Sacred Heart’s next matchups will be at the Northeast Conference Tournament on Feb. 25 and 26 in Elmwood Park, N.J.

Hockey’s Nylen Nominated for Hobey Baker Memorial Award

Senior Mitch Nylen excelling to new heights, attaining the prestigious Hobey Baker Memorial Award. Photo by Sacred Heart Athletics.

Senior Mitch Nylen excelling to new heights, attaining the prestigious Hobey Baker Memorial Award. Photo by Sacred Heart Athletics.

By Nicholas Troiano

Staff Reporter

Sacred Heart University men’s hockey senior co-captain Mitch Nylen has been nominated for the 2017 Hobey Baker Memorial award. The prestigious award is given to the nation’s top player.

Nylen has played 28 games for the Pioneers this season, producing four goals and 11 assists in his senior campaign.

Growing up in the non-hockey town of Atlanta, Ga. it was tough for Nylen’s skills to be seen at a young age. This was until he moved to Massachusetts, where he was finally able to put his abilities on display.

“When I moved to Massachusetts, I realized that I had what it took to play college hockey,” said Nylen.

From this point on, Nylen’s talents were never questioned, but it was his work ethic that lead to him being successful at the college level.

“Mitch wouldn’t be the hockey player he is today without his excellent work ethic. The hours that he put in over the summer have definitely translated to success on the ice this season. He has consistently been a top defenseman for us and his continued work ethic will propel him to succeed at the next level,” said senior co-captain Evan Jasper.

This hard work and positive impact has his teammates and coaches rooting for him to take home the Hobey Baker Memorial award.

“Mitch is a great candidate for the Hobey Baker. Nylen has played a huge role for Sacred Heart over the last four years and each year he has shown vast improvements.  With every success that our program has had, much can be attributed to the talent and hard work of Mitch Nylen and what he brings to the table for this program,” said Jasper.

Coach C.J Marottolo also has high praise for his senior co-captain.

“Mitch is a terrific skater with great mobility and a powerful stride that stands out in terms of his physical traits. He loves to compete and he is a selfless teammate. He plays with confidence and poise,” said Marottolo. “Mitch embodies exactly what the Hobey Baker award exemplifies. He has tremendous character both on and off the ice and he is one hell of a hockey player.”

The entire Sacred Heart men’s hockey program is
honored by the nomination, including Nylen himself.

“It is a huge honor to be nominated, it came as a shock to me but it’s sort of a satisfaction to have all your hard work and dedication recognized. Winning the award would be a perfect ending to my college career,” said Nylen.

As Nylen finishes his final season with the Pioneers, he is getting the recognition that he has worked his whole life for. Nylen’s impact has been felt by his teammates and the coaching staff.

Fan voting for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award ends on March 5. At that point it will be known if Nylen has won the award.

Guerrera Thirteenth in Nation for Mid-Distance Track

By Jack Sullivan

Staff Reporter

The Sacred Heart University’s track team has had a great deal of success this season. On a national standpoint, a runner for the university is making his way up in the ranks in the mid-distance running rankings.

Junior Trevor Guerrera, a nursing major who is in the honors program, is now ranked thirteenth in the nation for mid-distance running. Guerrera made his 800-meter debut Jan. 28 at the John Thomas Terrier invitational at Boston University. He ran his personal best of 1:21.28, just shy of a school record.

The junior runner has qualified for the IC4A and New England championships for Indoor track and field in the 800m, 1000m and the mile.

Crossing the finish line with those qualifying times is satisfying to him knowing he can continue to run in the postseason.

Guerrera found his passion for running and his competitiveness before college. He knew he wanted to run in college when he started to run well for his cross country and track teams for Sachem East High School in Farmingville, N.Y.

“My high school coach pushed me to be better and I realized I could run at a higher level as a senior in high school,” said Guerrera.

Guerrera’s coach, Christian Morrison, who has been the track coach for 21 years, pushes Guerrera to be the best athlete and person he can be.

“Trevor is a coach’s dream. I just love coaching him,” said Morrison. “While Trevor is very talented, he is also one of the two or three most dedicated and hardworking guys on the team. Like they always say about Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, it really makes a difference when your best athlete is also the hardest working athlete on the team.”

The challenge of being so successful in running is what makes Guerrera so competitive.

“I would consider myself a very competitive person, but I think in running often you are competing against your own self. Running challenges your willpower and how you can overcome the pain of racing and I love the challenge and thrill I get from racing,” said Guerrera.

After college, Guerrera is more focused on furthering his education than running after college. Although, it is not totally out of the picture.

“Right now I plan to pursue further education, but if turning professional is an option I will consider it,” said Guerrera.

Guerrera’s goals involve beating that school record for the 800 meter.

“I am definitely going for that school record,” said Guerrera. “I am going to the Armory Invitational this weekend with a fast field hoping to get that school record and move up on the national list.”

Guerrera isn’t the only one who thinks that the record can be broken. Morrison has high hopes that he will beat the 800m record.

“He just missed the record last Saturday and the race didn’t play out perfectly,” said Morrison. “He can break it if he gets into the right race that goes at an advantageous pace.”

Guerrera was one of the members of the Sacred Heart track and field team representing the university at the Armory Invitational in New York, N.Y. on Feb. 4 and 5.

Women’s Swimming & Diving Earns Scholar All-America Distinction

Women's swimming and diving reams earned scholar All-America distinction with a combined 3.44 team GPA and tied for 42nd nationally. Photo by Sacred Heart Athletics.

Women’s swimming and diving reams earned scholar All-America distinction with a combined 3.44 team GPA and tied for 42nd nationally. Photo by Sacred Heart Athletics.

By Mark Morales

Staff Reporter

The Sacred Heart University women’s swimming and diving team are coming off a fall semester where they collectively posted a 3.44 GPA, the national average being 3.336. The stat that stands out the most though is that the Pioneers GPA is tied for 42nd across the globe.

Due to their success in the classroom, the Pioneers earned the Scholar All-America distinction from the Collegiate Swimming Coaches Association of America. In order to even be considered a Scholar All-America team, you must achieve a collective GPA of 3.0 or higher.

“We want to show the SHU campus and the people in our conference that not only are we good at swimming, but we are also on top of our grades,” said freshman Lauren Somers. “We want to put it out there that we have a high GPA because that’s a big achievement.”

The women’s swimming and diving team are one of 18 university sports programs that acquired a 3.4 GPA or higher last fall. They attribute their success to their teammates. They stressed that having each other was one of the main reasons for their success in and out of the pool.

“We would not be where we are without our teammates, there’s no doubt about it, without our teammates I’d be no where,” said freshman Nikole Rudis. “It’s definitely a team effort, it might be our individual grade, but it’s our team GPA.”

This group of 28 young successful women are able to find a balance between schoolwork and sports by leaning on each other for motivation and are there to help each other keep pushing throughout the long and tiring season.

“You don’t go to the library or the Pitt alone, you go do homework together. Everyone’s cheering for each other, you always give a shout out to someone in the water,” said freshman Kimberly Hylan.

When asked about their coach’s dedication to the sport, as well as his dedication for his athletes success in the classroom, Rudis had nothing but good things to say.

“He definitely emphasizes that academics comes first, what we do in the classroom is just as important as what we do in the pool,” said Rudis.

Sacred Heart’s student-athletes had a combined GPA of 3.33 last semester and are on pace to surpass their award-winning GPA of 3.279 from the 2014-15 academic year. That year, they earned the NEC Institutional GPA Award.

The women’s swimming and diving team are 8-2 on the season and will begin their playoff push on Feb. 15 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, looking to capture their first NEC championship in school history.

Wrestling Team Looking for Tournament Success: Pioneers Looking to Finish Strong Before Postseason Tournaments

The wrestling team discusses strategies to ensure a successful win at their tournament in St. Louis. Photo by Ryan Touhey/Spectrum.

The wrestling team discusses strategies to ensure a successful win at their tournament in St. Louis. Photo by Ryan Touhey/Spectrum.

By Ryan Touhey

Staff Reporter

The Sacred Heart University wrestling team is determined to have some wrestlers pack their bags for St. Louis in March and compete at the Division I National Championships.

That objective, though, has several obstacles blocking its entrance. Among them are Sacred Heart’s ongoing final dual-meets this season, which are all on the road. One of those meets was on Feb. 4 at Bucknell University.

Bucknell is the site of another obstacle awaiting Sacred Heart, the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championships, which will be held on March 3 and 4.

“We definitely have some guys who have the potential to put on a good show at the EIWA Conference Tournament, and qualify for the National Tournament,” said assistant coach Derek Moore.

The team won’t learn new techniques as much with the season closing. Rather, Moore and head coach Andy Lausier, will focus more on a different strategy to get their wrestlers prepared for the tournament. They will act as sources of inspiration and guidance for their wrestlers, in order to help them achieve their personal goals during the postseason.

Moore reflected on the 1,100-mile bike trip that Lausier took to St. Louis earlier this season, as an example of influencing the team. He remembered how driven the wrestlers were by Lausier, and how they gained a new amount of respect for him as a coach.

“When it comes to the matches, it’s just reminding the guys to go out there and compete hard,” said Moore. “We’ll give them advice, with different ways of doing it. They choose what works well for them, and then they implement and execute.”

Captain and senior Casey Mitchell, also gives his all to motivate his teammates during this time of year. Being captain since his sophomore year, Mitchell takes pride in leading by example, rather than relying on talking.

“I like to know that when somebody is looking around the room they can see me, see I’m working hard and kind of setting the example both inside and outside of the room,” said Mitchell. “Whether that’s at a lift, at wrestling practice, academically, anything like that.”

Mitchell is anxious for the EIWA, and is pulling for his teammates to place higher for the National Championships. He hopes that the training will enable his teammates to build off of each other’s energy and enthusiasm. That way, they can get closer together as a team.

The Pioneers next meet will be Saturday, Feb. 11 at Brown University at 1 p.m.

Redshirt junior Elliot Antler makes sure that the process goes smoothly for everyone.

“Just showing them that you’re there supporting them, and you’re behind them and want success for them too. And as they succeed, the team succeeds,” said Antler.

“Pack the Pitt” Brings the Community Together: Two Pioneer Basketball Games: Fun for Fans and Players

pack-the-pitt-general-adBy Kendall Clark

Staff Reporter

Sacred Heart men’s and women’s basketball team will be hosting their annual “Pack the Pitt” games in a new way this year.

The men’s game will take place on Thursday, Feb. 9 against St. Francis Brooklyn. The women’s game will take place on Monday, Feb. 20 against Fairleigh Dickinson University.

“I feel like it’ll be a good game. Last year our ‘Pack the Pitt’ game was the game that got us going and started to play better as a team,” said sophomore guard Quincy McKnight.

He further talked about how it’s important for him and the team to play at a high level and there was no doubt that they were all on the same page.

The energy and the excitement of the crowd is well liked by the team.

“Yeah, it’s very exciting. It’s the most fans we get every year. It’s very exciting for people to come out. I know a lot of familiar faces are going to be coming,” said Hoehn. “So it’s going to be cool to see all my friends and family members in the crowd.”

The importance of the game is also stressed each year.

“It’s like the first football game of every year. It’s very very packed, so you hope that everyone is there. You hope that everyone is cheering on their school. It’s very nice for us and it shows for the other sports that we have good school spirit,” said Hoehn.

The women’s team is just as pumped for their game as the men are.

Some feel as though “Pack the Pitt” is a great opportunity to bring the community together.

“It’s just a community thing. I think it’s cool to have everyone come out. I think it makes the atmosphere more exciting and it means a lot to us,” said senior Shelby Hickey.

Certain members of the team believe the game went well last year and hope to see the same turnout this year.

“You know, it was an exciting season last year. They felt our energy. So hopefully it’ll happen again this year,” said graduate student and guard Kelcey Castro.

Castro acknowledges that the team is very humble, as she made it clear no matter how well they are playing, they play as a team.

“Individually, I’m doing pretty well, but we’re more focused as a team. So we’re just going to focus on our goal, which is ultimately winning a championship and you know, striving to that goal,” said Castro.

Hoehn just had one simple statement to say when asked if he had anything to say to the fans.

“Hope to see you there,” said Hoehn.

 

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