Fairfield, CT – The Pioneers, who will take to the court in 2012 in search of a third straight Northeast Conference Championship, have released their schedule for the upcoming season. Head Coach Rob Machan has continued the program's tradition of scheduling difficult non-conference opponents as Sacred Heart will contend with a full slate of tough teams, including San Diego State, Alabama, and Central Florida. The Pioneers head into the new season with a pair of 2011 all-conference middle blockers as Elise Sage (Greenwood Village, CO) and Johanna Ovsenek (London, Ontario) both return for their senior season wearing the red and white.
Sacred Heart kicks-off the 2012 campaign August 24-25 in Massachusetts for a tournament that will be hosted by both Holy Cross and Northeastern. SHU squares off with each host as well as the Alabama Crimson Tide in the opening weekend of the year. The Pioneers will head west the following week for the Aztec Challenge to meet up with Utah State and Montana as well as host San Diego State. Sacred Heart then travels to Cal State Fullerton for a single match before heading back to the east coast.
The annual SHU Hampton Inn Shelton Invitational will be held September 7-8 in the William H. Pitt Center and features Dartmouth, Central Florida, and cross-town rival Fairfield. SHU will look to win its own event for the third straight year but will contend with the Big Green, who shared the crown in 2010, in a Saturday afternoon showdown. Sacred Heart rounds out the early season tournaments with a trip to West Point for the Black Knight Invitational, which includes matches with Army, Albany, and VCU.
The Pioneers final tune-up for the Northeast Conference schedule will be a clash with Nutmeg State rival UConn, who SHU defeated on the road, 3-1, in 2011. The Huskies will come to the Pitt Center on September 19 for a 7:00 pm match-up.
Sacred Heart will then play all 16 of its Northeast Conference contests consecutively with their sights set on a third straight NEC Regular Season and Tournament title. The Pioneers are 28-4 against NEC opposition in the last two seasons. SHU has also been dominant inside the Pitt Center, owning a 35-4 mark at home since 2009.
The 2012 Northeast Conference Tournament, which will include the top-four teams in the standings, will be held November 17-18 at the home of the top-seed and regular season champion.