Fairfield, CT - The Pioneer women's volleyball team posted a season best .470 hitting percentage to sweep Robert Morris 3-0 and claim the Northeast Conference crown for the first time in school history. Courtney Kidd-Kadlubek (Santa Barbara, CA) added to her trophy case as the NEC Setter and Player of the Year was named the tournament MVP. Jessica Colberg (Long Beach, CA) joined Kidd-Kadlubek on the all-tournament team, the junior libero recorded a match high 12 digs in the title contest. Sacred Heart's 2010 tournament championship breaks the streak of six straight titles of Long Island, who was knocked out by the Colonials in the semifinals.
"Courtney has been great on and off the court since she arrived here four years ago," said head coach Rob Machan. "She has been key in developing our culture of hard work and pride in the program here at Sacred Heart. She is the backbone of our team and its great to have a player that everyone can trust on the floor."
Sacred Heart (29-6) came roaring out of the gate to take a commanding 13-3 lead in front of a raucous crowd of 476 fans at the William H. Pitt Center. A kill from Dianis Mercado (Vega Baja, Puerto Rico), one of her nine of the match, forced RMU head coach Dale Starr to call a timeout. The Pioneers did not relent any of the momentum and took five of the next seven points after the stoppage of play to push the cushion to 20-5. Johanna Ovsenek (London, Ontario) finished the frame at 25-9 with one of her match high 16 kills. The Pioneers hit an incredible .621 in the opening set by recording 19 kills and making just a single error.
"Johanna is just starting to scratch the surface of how great of a player she can be," commented Machan. "She is an incredibly physical player and a fantastic athlete. As she develops more confidence in just how good she can be, I expect her to really take off as a player."
Robert Morris (17-18) found itself in another early hole, 5-1, after Ovsenek slammed down back-to-back kills. The Colonials rallied to take the next three points, the final coming on a block by Hannah Veith and Addie Jennings. But that would be one of just two total blocks for the match for Robert Morris, who entered the contest as the league leader in blocking. Sacred Heart then engineered an 11-6 run, finished off by a Sage kill, to regain control of the set with a 16-10 advantage. Sage finished the match with an incredible .786 hitting percentage, tallying 12 kills on 14 total attempts.
The Pioneers, who finish the 2010 season a perfect 16-0 at home, used a 4-1 spurt in the middle of the third set to earn a 13-7 edge and force a Colonial timeout. Again Sacred Heart was not fazed by the stoppage and took six of the next eight points to increase its lead to double digits at 19-9. Two straight kills from Ashlyn Trimble (Temecula, CA), who finished with seven overall, put the Pioneers within two points of the victory at 23-12. Sage blasted kills on the next two points to leave no doubt, taking the set 25-12 for SHU as the top seeded Pioneers celebrated its NEC tournament championship.
Sacred Heart held the Colonials to just a .091 hitting percentage and recorded two blocks for the match. Freshman Christina Bauch (Trabuco Canyon, CA) was rock solid all afternoon and earned the match's only double-double with 10 kills and 11 digs. Kidd-Kadlubek recorded 44 kills in the title contest and 96 total for the weekend en route to being named tournament MVP.
The tournament champion Pioneers receive the Northeast Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, with first round action scheduled for December 2-5 at one of 16 regional sites. Sacred Heart will learn its first round opponent next Sunday, November 28 during the NCAA selection show on ESPNews at 3:00 pm.
"Whoever we play in the NCAA tournament, we are going to make them work and earn their points. We just need to focus on our intensity and keep up our attacking mindset."