The Storyline... The Sacred Heart women's basketball team hosts the Siena Saints Sunday afternoon in the Pioneers final non-conference game before the start of the Northeast Conference schedule next week. SHU is coming off of a tight 70-69 road victory over Yale Wednesday night and will look to win back-to-back contests for the first time this season. Callan Taylor exploded for 20 points in the win over the Bulldogs but it was a pair of Kiley Evans free throws with four seconds remaining in regulation that sealed the win. Sacred Heart will play four of its next five games in the friendly confines of the Pitt Center, including the last non-conference matchup of the season December 28 versus St. Bonaventure. The Saints have lost four straight entering the Sunday showdown, including losses to NEC opponents Central Connecticut State and Wagner as well as falling to Albany, who the Pioneers downed earlier in 2010-11.
Series... The Saints won the first and only meeting in the history of the two programs last season, 51-45 in Loudonville, NY. Alisa Apo notched a game high 21 points for SHU but two Saints recorded double figures in scoring to defeat the Pioneers. For the game Siena shot 42 percent from the floor while holding SHU to a 34 percent clip.
Scouting the Saints... Serena Moore has paced the Siena offense in 2010-11 averaging 17.5 points per game. Moore has also led the Saints efforts on the glass, pulling in 9.3 rebounds per game. Siena has lost a pair of games by less than four points already this season as well as suffering another loss in overtime. The Saints are shooting at 36 percent from the floor this year and are averaging an extra rebound per game over their opponents. Siena finished the 2009-10 campaign with an 11-18 record and have been picked to finish eighth in the preseason MAAC coaches poll.
SHU Against the MAAC... The Pioneers are 35-20 (.636) all-time against opponents who currently reside in the America East. Sacred Heart is 1-1 this season against teams in the America East, defeating Albany at home while dropping a road game to Hartford. Of present America East teams SHU has faced Stony Brook the most often, owning a 10-4 record against the Seawolves. Sacred Heart's best head-to-head record in the America East comes against former NEC member Maryland-Baltimore County. The Pioneers own a 6-2 mark (.750) versus the Terriers having last played, and beat, UMBC February 4, 2003.
The Coaches... Ed Swanson (SHU '89) is in his 21st season as head coach at his alma mater. Swanson posts a 345-236 record in his career at Sacred Heart. His teams have a 219-117 record since joining the Division I ranks in 1999-00. Swanson was inducted in to the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 and is the program's longest tenured coach and all-time leader in coaching wins (345). He has been named the NEC Coach of the Year three times and is the all-time leader in regular season NEC wins (150). Gina Castelli (Canisius '86) is also in her 21st season at the helm of the Siena women's basketball program. She is the third female coach in MAAC history to eclipse the 300 win mark. Castelli has won five MAAC Coach of the Year honors and guided the Saints to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 2001. During her tenure she has coached 35 All-MAAC selections.
Taylor Paces Pioneers... Junior Callan Taylor has averaged 15.4 points per game through the Pioneers first eight contests of 2010-11. Taylor was dominant in the Pioneer victory over Yale, posting a season high 20 points against the Bulldogs. She leads SHU in scoring having reached double digits in every game. Taylor also is Sacred Heart's top rebounder at 6.4 boards per game. In the Pioneers trip to the Bahamas she was named to the 2010 Junkanoo Jam all-tournament team, averaging 12.5 points against Auburn and Boston College.
Apo Reaches 1,500 Point Plateau... Senior captain Alisa Apo dropped in 17 points in the Pioneer victory over Yale and in the process eclipsed the 1,500 mark for career scoring. Her 1,513 points put her fourth on the all-time scoring list. Next in Apo's sights is former teammate Kaitlin Sowinski, who stands at 1,541 points. The duo combined in 2008-09 to help lead the Pioneers to a NEC championship. Apo also currently stands at 378 assists for her career, ranking second in SHU history. Apo needs just 17 more assists in 2010-11 to have the most assists in Pioneer history, a mark currently held by Kerri Burke's 394 assists.
Taking Charity... The Pioneers have posted a 78 percent (28-36) mark from the free throw line over the last three games. In each of its last two contests SHU has gone 7-of-8 from the charity stripe. Callan Taylor has been the team's best free throw shooter in 2010-11 at 94 percent (15-16). Kiley Evans has made the most free throws this season going 21-of-30 for a 70 percent pace this year. Alisa Apo sits fourth on the Pioneers all-time list for free throws made in a career with 405.
The Future 1,000 Point Trio?... It is entirely possibly that by the end of this season the Pioneers will have three 1,000 point scorers on the roster. Alisa Apo is well above the 1,000 point plateau, which she reached in her junior season. Senior Maggie Cosgrove stands at 829 career points. The SHU guard is averaging around six points per game this season, at that pace she would reach the 1,000 point mark in the Pioneers quarterfinal game of the Northeast Conference tournament. Junior Callan Taylor sits at 944 points and could reach 1,000, at her current 15 point per game pace, at home December 28 against St. Bonaventure.
Tropical Paradise... The Pioneers traveled to the Bahamas for the 2010 Junkanoo Jam, finishing in second place. In the semifinals Sacred Heart knocked off Auburn of the SEC 65-53. The Pioneers led by as many as 30 points and picked up the program's first win over a team from one of the major conferences. Four Pioneers scored in double figures in the victory, led by Alisa Apo's 15 point and six rebound performance. Callan Taylor was named to the all-tournament team, averaging 12.5 points and seven rebounds per game in the event.
Pioneers Ink Three NLI's For 2011-12... Hannah Kimmel (Harpursville, NY), Gabrielle Washington (Mesa, AZ) and Katie Shepard (Lone Tree, CO) have signed national letter of intents and will be Sacred Heart Pioneers in the fall of 2011. Kimmel has averaged over 29 points per game in her high school career and is a two time conference MVP. Washington, the 2008-09 Pima Region player of the year, has averaged over 20 points per game in her last two seasons. Last season she eclipsed the 1,000 point plateau en route to being named the East Valley Region player of the year. Shepard, a true point guard, averaged eight points and eight assists in her junior season at Chapparal high school. She is a two-time team captain and was a 2010 all-league selection.