Pioneers Win 2011 SHU Invitational; Make It 20 Straight at Home

Alissa Mesa (12) and Tournament MVP Johanna Ovsenek (15)
Alissa Mesa (12) and Tournament MVP Johanna Ovsenek (15)

2011 SHU Invitational Tournament Central

Fairfield, CT – The SHU women's volleyball team posted a pair of 3-0 victories over Hartford and Rutgers to lay claim to the 2011 SHU Invitational crown and extend the program's record setting home winning streak to 20 games, dating back to 2009.  Johanna Ovsenek (London, Ontario) was named the tournament MVP, powering down 14 kills in day two of the event and making only two errors.  Kimmee Roleder (Pasadena, CA) also earned a spot on the all-tournament team, notching a pair of double-doubles and six solo blocks over three matches.

Sacred Heart (5-1) started the day with a 9:30 am match against Nutmeg State rival Hartford.  The Pioneers immediately jumped out to a 5-1 lead over the Hawks.  Jessica Colberg (Long Beach, CA) was rock solid on defense in the first set, as well as the rest of the match, recording six of her 20 total digs in the opening frame.  The Hawks would battle back and eventually took a 21-20 lead on a kill from all-tournament team selection Kami Nethersole.  However, SHU would take five of the next six points to win the first set 25-22 with the final point coming from a Roleder block.

Hartford (2-5) would be unable to handle the Pioneers red hot offense in the second stanza.  The Pioneers exploded for a .452 hitting percentage and cruised to a 25-15 triumph.  Elise Sage (Greenwood Village, CO) led the charge with six kills on eight attempts, good for a .750 hitting percentage.  Alisa Mesa (Long Beach, CA) posted nine of her team high 20 assists in the set.

The Pioneers were pushed to the limit in the third set as neither team would be able to extend a lead further than three points.  SHU was turned away at match point at 24-23 but capitalized on their next opportunity as Sage put her ninth kill of the match to the floor to give the Pioneers the 26-24 victory in the set and the 3-0 shutout for the match.

The Pioneers got off to another fast start in the tournament's championship match versus Rutgers, cruising out to a 9-2 cushion.  The Scarlet Knights would never close the gap as Sacred Heart won the opening frame, 25-20.  SHU hammered 16 kills in the set against just two errors, notching an impressive .583 hitting percentage.  Sage continued her efficient play with four kills on four swings and now has a .344 hitting percentage for 2011. 

Rutgers (4-4) had an early edge in the second set but quickly lost momentum in the middle stages of the frame.  Sacred Heart rattled off four straight points to take an 18-10 lead with one point awarded after the Scarlet Knights coach received a red card after arguing with the referees.  However, Rutgers came charging back into the set and took six straight rallies to close to within one, 23-22.  The Pioneers would keep their composure and take the set 25-22 after a Rutgers attacking error as well as a block from Sage and Mesa.

Sacred Heart orchestrated a 16-5 run to break open what had been an 8-8 third set.  Roleder tallied the match point with one of her 11 kills of the afternoon as the Pioneers won the final stanza, 25-15.  The Pioneers finish the tournament riding a five game winning streak, all coming in 3-0 shutouts.  SHU has now won its own tournament with a perfect record in back-to-back seasons.

The Pioneers return to action this Tuesday at UConn before heading to a tournament hosted by the University of Maryland next weekend.