SOMERSET, N.J. – The Sacred Heart women's lacrosse team was selected seventh in the Northeast Conference Preseason Poll, as announced by the league office on Thursday afternoon.
The two-time defending NEC Champion Wagner earned the top spot in the poll with six first place votes. Mount St. Mary's was picked second with the remaining three first place nods. Robert Morris, Bryant, LIU, Saint Francis U, Sacred Heart, Merrimack and CCSU rounded out the poll.
The Pioneers are looking to return to the NEC Tournament after last making a postseason appearance in the 2016-17 seasons. SHU finished 2-14 overall last season and 1-6 in NEC play in the 2018 campaign.
Cesario started all 16 games and has been in the starting lineup for SHU in 34 consecutive games. She totaled 37 points on 23 goals and 14 assists while leading the team with 37 ground balls while adding 20 caused turnovers and 13 draw controls. Cesario has increased her scoring totals (goals, assists, points) as well as her caused turnover numbers in each of her first three seasons at SHU.
Small was dynamic on the defensive end, leading the team with 34 caused turnovers while ranking second for the Pioneers with 33 ground balls and 24 draw controls. She ranked second in the NEC and 16th in the nation in caused turnovers per game (2.13) while her season total (34) is the sixth-highest single-season total in program history.
Werlau was the lynchpin for the Pioneers on offense, becoming the Pioneers' first player to earn All-Rookie and All-NEC honors in the same season since Kelly Keenan in 2012. Werlau led the conference with four Rookie of the Week honors on her way to setting the SHU rookie record with 45 points and 38 goals in her 15 games played. She really made her mark with a massive nine-goal outing in an overtime loss at LIU Brooklyn that set a SHU single-game goal scoring record while the nine-goal total tied for the second-highest single-game scoring total by any player in the NCAA in 2019.
Several returners highlight the newly vamped roster as seven of the Pioneers' top eight point producers from last season return in 2020. The Pioneers also welcome nine first-years to the program as SHU looks to make it back to the postseason in 2020.
The Pioneers open the new season with two straight road games at Bucknell (Feb. 8) and Monmouth (Feb. 15) before the team's home opener on Feb. 28 against Vermont.