2012 Northeast Conference
Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. Sacred Heart (8)
2. LIU Brooklyn
3. Central Connecticut
4. Robert Morris (1)
6. Saint Francis (PA)
7. Fairleigh Dickinson
8. St. Francis (NY)
First Place Votes in Parentheses ( )
Click here for Official Press Release (PDF)
SOMERSET, NJ —
Sacred Heart, which won the Northeast Conference championship for the second year in a row in 2011, earned eight first-place votes in the 2012 preseason poll and was picked to capture the title again this season.
LIU Brooklyn was picked by the league’s head coaches to finish second, followed by Central Connecticut and Robert Morris, respectively. Bryant and Saint Francis (PA) were tabbed fifth and sixth, while Fairleigh Dickinson, St. Francis (NY) and Quinnipiac rounded out the nine-team field.
Sacred Heart (27-7, 14-2 NEC)
also tied for the regular season title with LIU Brooklyn in 2011, and went on to give Stanford fits in a first-round NCAA Tournament match.
Despite losing NEC Libero of the Year Jessica Colberg and All-Conference selection Kimmee Roleder to graduation, the Pioneers and head coach Rob Machan
boast a strong list of returnees, including second team All-Conference middle blockers Johanna Osenvek (London, Ontario/Saunders Secondary)
and Elise Sage (Greenwood Village, CO/Cherry Creek)
Osenvek, a junior, recorded 332 kills, 83 blocks and ranked seventh in the NEC in hitting percentage (.312), while Sage, also a junior, contributed 294 kills, 105 digs, 50 blocks and ranked fifth in the league in hitting (.333). Sage was named to the NEC All-Tournament team and was a two-time NEC Player of the Week. The Pioneers also return Dianis Mercado (Vega Baja, Puerto Rico/Colegio Marista)
, who racked up 349 kills and 372 digs in her freshman season.
The 2012 NEC Tournament will be held on Nov. 17 and 18 at the high seed’s home court. The top four finishers in the regular season advance to the semifinals. The winner of the championship receives the NEC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
• Last season marked the first time any volleyball team in the NEC won a set at the NCAA tournament. Sacred Heart picked up a set in its eventual 3-1, first-round loss to Stanford, which finished the season ranked 14th in the nation.
• From 2009 to 2011, Sacred Heart is 40-8 against NEC opponents, while LIU Brooklyn is 37-9.
• LIU Brooklyn and Sacred Heart collectively owned all but one of the top spots in NEC volleyball statistics last season. LIU led the conference in hitting percentage and blocks, while Sacred Heart topped the assists, kills and service ace categories, and also had the lowest opponent hitting percentage. Central Connecticut led the league in digs.
• Three NEC teams have returning players who ranked in the NCAA top-50 individual statistics. Meaghan Wheeler of Fairleigh Dickinson was seventh in points per set (4.71) and eighth in kills per set (5.30), Dianis Mercado of Sacred Heart was 45th in aces per set (.39) and Central Connecticut’s Jamie Rademacher was 40th in hitting percentage (.353).
• Two schools were also nationally ranked in the NCAA top-50 team statistics. In aces per set, Sacred Heart was 11th and Saint Francis (PA) was 26th. Sacred Heart also climbed its way into the top-50 ranks for assists per set (28th), kills per set (25th) and won-loss percentage (28th).
• Robert Morris (1999-03), LIU Brooklyn (2004-09) and Sacred Heart (2010-11) have won the last 13 NEC Tournament titles.
TEAM BY TEAM
Bryant (14-18, 8-8 NEC)
The Bulldogs won their most conference matches in 2011 since joining the NEC three years ago. Bryant is also eligible to compete in the NEC tournament this season.
Player to Watch: Senior setter Jadith Lorenzo (Lawrence, MA/Lawrence International) ranked first on the team and eighth in the NEC with 907 assists, an average of 6.92 per set. She also had a team-leading 44 service aces, and her average of 0.34 per game was sixth in the conference.
Central Connecticut (20-11, 11-5 NEC)
Central Connecticut capped off 2011 with a third place finish in the regular season. The Blue Devils reached the NEC Tournament semifinals for the ninth straight season.
Player to Watch: Outside hitter Emily Cochran (Adel, IA/Adel-DeSoto-Minburn) was named to the NEC All-Tournament team as well as to the All-NEC second team and led the team offensively with 446 kills, 26 aces, 342 digs and 46 blocks. She ranked fourth in the NEC with 3.81 kills per game
Fairleigh Dickinson (17-13, 7-9 NEC)
In 2011, the Knights finished above .500 for the first time since 2006, and finished in sixth place in the conference standings.
Player to Watch: All-Conference selection and outside hitter Meaghan Wheeler (Chatsworth, CA/Chaminade College Prep) set a school record while leading the NEC with 528 kills and 4.71 kills per set, which ranked eighth in the NCAA. Wheeler, a senior, also ranked seventh nationally in points per set (5.30).
LIU Brooklyn (21-13, 14-2 NEC)
LIU Brooklyn was picked to finish fourth in 2011 preseason poll, yet exceeded expectations and tied for first, the program’s fifth regular season title in the last seven years. NEC Coach of the Year Kyle Robinson and his Blackbirds only suffered two conference losses, both to NEC champion Sacred Heart.
Player to Watch: Unanimously selected NEC Setter of the Year, Vera Djuric (Lazarevac, Serbia/Svetozar Markovic) led the league in assists (1,290) last season as a freshman, an average of 10.75 per game. Her mark was the fifth-highest in LIU history. She also ranked second on the team with 37 aces, 82 blocks and 264 digs.
Quinnipiac (4-25, 3-13)
Quinnipiac will look to qualify for its ninth NEC Tournament in school history, and make its first appearance since 2005 under new interim head coach Kristopher Czaplinski.
Player to Watch: Junior Tracy Wright (Fair Lawn, NJ/Fair Lawn) led the Bobcats with 426 digs, which also ranked third in the conference, (4.30 per game). Wright played in all 29 matches and 99 sets for Quinnipiac in 2011.
Robert Morris (15-17, 10-6 NEC)
The Colonials, led by head coach Dale Starr, qualified for the NEC Tournament for the 13th straight time last season, while also extending the longest streak in the conference with its 13th consecutive winning season in league play.
Player to Watch: Senior outside hitter Lindsey Monger (Rising Sun, MD/Rising Sun) earned second team All-Conference honors and finished fifth on the circuit with 3.49 kills per game. She also ranked sixth in the conference in points (3.84 per game) and eigth in digs (3.44 per game).
Saint Francis (PA) (10-21, 5-11 NEC)
Saint Francis (PA) has improved in overall wins every year since 2009 and hopes to increase the number again in 2012, as the Red Flash returns all six starters.
Player to Watch: Senior middle blocker Elizabeth Williams (North Bend, OH/Saint Ursula) had a team-leading 282 kills for a 2.47 per-set average, and was second on the Red Flash with 65 total blocks. She also ranked ninth on the circuit with a .297 hitting percentage.
Saint Francis (NY) (1-31, 0-16 NEC)
St. Francis (NY) will look to rebound this season with 10 returnees joined by four newcomers.
Player to Watch: Outside hitter and offensive leader Marina Georgieva (Sofia, Bulgari /Suchern Ivan Vazov) brings experience as a senior, after recording 343 total kills, a 3.01 kills per set average, to rank eighth in the NEC.