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Dom Felix NEC Rookie of the Year/Second Team All Conference

By Dave Neely, 04/15/21, 1:00PM EDT


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Somerset, NJ -- There will be a host of new additions to trophy display at the Pitt Center thanks to the Sacred Heart women's volleyball program.

Following an unbeaten NEC regular season, the Pioneers won four of the five major year-end awards as voted by the league's head coaches, headlined by junior Sarah Ciszek's (San Juan Capistrano, CA/Santa Margarita Catholic) selection as the 2020-21 NEC Player of the Year.

Ciszek, who was also named the NEC Setter of the Year for the third year running, added these awards to her stack of career nods, which includes an NEC Rookie of the Year (2018) accolade and recognition as the 2019 NEC Tournament MVP.

Ciszek was joined on the major award winner list by teammate Dominique Felix (Pittsburgh, PA/ North Catholic), the NEC Rookie of the Year, and NEC Coach of the Year Rob Machan.

LIU, which will participate in the NCAA Tournament as the leagues automatic qualifier, was represented in the major awards by Anastisia Scott (Jacksonville, FL/ The Bolles School). The junior libero was voted the NEC Defensive Player of the Year.

Ciszek ranks in the NEC top-10 in three statistical categories: third in assists (8.70 per set), sixth in hitting percentage (.278) and seventh in digs (4.10 per set). She also registered 1.80 kills perset on a Sacred Heart team that boasted an NEC-leading .213 hitting percentage. The Pioneer standout is second in the NCAA with four triple-doubles, besting her previous season record (3) despite the shortened season. The San Juan Capistrano, CA native was named the NEC Player of the Week twice and has now made three appearances on the All-NEC first team. Ciszek, who has accumulated 2,556 career assists over her first three years, is only the second student-athlete to claim NEC Setter of the Year honors on three occasions, joining four-time winner Vera Druric of LIU. She is also the fourth Pioneer to be named NEC Player of the Year, joining a pair of all-time greats in Courtney Kidd-Kadlubek (2010) and two-time winner Sarah Krufka (2015-16).

Felix, a freshman outside hitter from Pittsburgh, twice earned NEC Rookie of the Week honors this season. She ranked third on the Pioneers with 2.12 kills per set and fourth with 2.68 digs per set. The lone SHU freshman to play all 50 sets, she posted three double-doubles on the year. Felix was the only rookie named All-Conference, landing a spot on the second team. Previous SHU winners of the NEC Rookie of the Year award include Dianis Mercado (2010), Sarah Krufka (2013) and Ciszek (2018).

Scott propelled herself to the top of the charts in 2020-21, pacing the NEC with 5.70 digs per set heading into the postseason. The Jacksonville, FL product currently ranks 12th in the NCAA in digs. Her 38 kills in a match against Sacred Heart on March 12 was the most by an NEC player this season. Scott, who was named the NEC Defensive Player of the Week on March 15, was also tabbed to the All-NEC first team. She joined four-time winner Adriana Vinas-Joy (2012-15), Svetlana Simic (2007) and Natalia Rivera (2018) as LIU student-athletes who have won the NEC Defensive Player (formerly Libero) of the Year award.

Machan collected his fourth NEC Coach of the Year accolade (2009, 2010, 2016 and 2020-21) in 14 seasons at the helm after leading the Pioneers to an undefeated conference slate for the first time and the program's fourth NEC regular season title, all of which have coming during his tenure. Under Machan, Sacred Heart finished the year with an 11-3 mark and conference-leading .786 win percentage. This season, SHU led the league in hitting percentage (.213) and opponent hitting percentage (.141) over the course of the regular season. In league play, the Pioneers paced the circuit in hitting (.231), opponent hitting (.122), assists per set (12.80), kills per set (13.86) and digs per set (19.11).


Machan coached a NEC-high five student-athletes to All-Conference teams with two Pios named to the first team and three more to the second team.

Ciszek was joined on the first team by graduate transfer Olivia Fairchild (Phoeniz, AZ/Desert Vista (Fordham)). The former Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year made an immediate impact in Fairfield, leading Sacred Heart while ranking fifth in the NEC with 3.28 kills per set. She was even better in conference play where she ranked second with 3.69 kills per set. The opposite hitter's 4.02 points per set positions her third on the circuit.

Felix found company on the second team in SHU junior libero Emma Smallcomb (Westborough, MA/Westborough) and sophomore middle blocker Reghan Palanchi (Succasunna, NJ/Roxbury). Smallcomb powered SHU's defense with 5.06 digs per set, the fourth-best mark in the NEC, while Palanchi ranks second in the conference in hitting (.302) and fifth in blocks (1.10 per set).

LIU had landed at least one first team All-NEC performer in each of the last 18 seasons and this year is no different as the Sharks boasted three first-team honorees. In addition to Scott, outside hitters Karolina Nova (Pribham, Czech Republic/Gymnazium Pripotocni) and Jovana Stekovic (Gornji Milanovac, Serbia/Gimnazija Takovski Ustanak) are amongst the list of honorees. Nova, the 2019 NEC Rookie of the Year and a second team All-Conference honoree as a freshman, leads the conference with 4.08 kills and 4.66 points per set. Stekovic, a senior, landed her first spot on an All-Conference team after posting 3.29 kills per set and 3.75 points per set to rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in the league.

Bryant kill leader Emma McGovern (Long Beach, NY/Long Beach) was tabbed to the first team. The sophomore outside hitter improved her hitting percentage from .110 to .208 in her second year, and her 3.15 kills per set ranks sixth in the NEC. Fellow Bulldog Alysa Wright (Wayne, PA/Bishop Shanahan), a sophomore blocker, averaged an NEC-best 1.24 blocks per set en route to second team honors.

Central Connecticut's Emma Henderson (Prairie Village, KS/Shawnee Mission East) was named to the All-Conference second team for the third consecutive season. The senior outside hitter was an asset to the Blue Devils both offensively and defensively, posting a team-best 3.48 kills (third in NEC), 4.02 points (fourth) and 0.38 service aces (second) per set, to go along with 3.31 digs per set. CCSU sophomore opposite hitter Isabelle Roufs (Winsted, MN/Howard Lake Waverly Winsted) also earned repeat All-NEC status, garnering her second straight second team honor after concluding the regular season fourth in the conference with 1.10 blocks per set.

Fairleigh Dickinson was represented by senior outside hitter Victoria Demmene (Sarpsborg, Norway/Sauda videregåande skule, avd. Sand) on the first team. In becoming the first All-NEC honoree for the Knights since 2012, Demmene wrapped her season second in the conference in both kills (3.61) and points (4.18) per set.

LIU sophomore middle blocker Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, MI/Walled Lake Central) was named to the second team after she hit .292, good for fourth on the loop.

Now in its 40th anniversary season, the Northeast Conference is an NCAA Division I collegiate athletic association consisting of 10 institutions of higher learning located throughout seven states. Media coverage of the NEC extends to a number of the largest markets in the United States - New York (#1), Boston (#9), Baltimore (#26), Hartford/New Haven (#33) and Providence (#53). Founded in 1981 as the basketball-only ECAC Metro Conference, the NEC has grown to sponsor 24 championship sports for men and women and now enjoys automatic access to 16 different NCAA Championships. NEC member institutions include Bryant, Central Connecticut, Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU, Merrimack, Mount St. Mary’s, Sacred Heart, St. Francis Brooklyn, Saint Francis U and Wagner. For more information on the NEC, visit the league’s official website ( and digital network (, or follow the league on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, all @NECsports.
2020-21 Northeast Conference Women's Volleyball Award Winners

Player of the Year

Sarah Ciszek          Sacred Heart          S      Jr.  San Juan Capistrano, CA/Santa Margarita Catholic

Setter of the Year
Sarah Ciszek          Sacred Heart          S      Jr.  San Juan Capistrano, CA/Santa Margarita Catholic

Defensive Player of the Year
Anastasia Scott       LIU                   L      Jr.  Jacksonville, FL/The Bolles School

Rookie of the Year
Dominique Felix       Sacred Heart          OH     Fr.  Pittsburgh, PA/North Catholic

Coach of the Year
Rob Machan            Sacred Heart          14th Season

2020-21 Northeast Conference Women's Volleyball First Team All-Conference

Name                  School                Pos    Yr   Hometown/High School (Previous School)

Sarah Ciszek          Sacred Heart          S      Jr.  San Juan Capistrano, CA/Santa Margarita Catholic
Victoria Demmene      Fairleigh Dickinson   OH     Sr.  Sarpsborg, Norway/Sauda videregåande skule, avd. Sand
Olivia Fairchild      Sacred Heart          OPP    Gr.  Phoenix, AZ/Desert Vista (Fordham)
Emma McGovern         Bryant                OH     So.  Long Beach, NY/Long Beach
Karolina Nova         LIU                   OH     So.  Pribham, Czech Republic/Gymnazium Pripotocni
Anastasia Scott       LIU                   L      Jr.  Jacksonville, FL/The Bolles School
Jovana Stekovic       LIU                   OH     Sr.  Gornji Milanovac, Serbia/Gimnazija Takovski Ustanak

2020-21 Northeast Conference Women's Volleyball Second Team All-Conference

Name                  School                Pos    Yr   Hometown/High School (Previous School)

Dominique Felix       Sacred Heart          OH     Fr.  Pittsburgh, PA/North Catholic
Emma Henderson        Central Connecticut   OH     Sr.  Prairie Village, KS/Shawnee Mission East
Reghan Palanchi       Sacred Heart          MB     So.  Succasunna, NJ/Roxbury
Isabelle Roufs        Central Connecticut   OPP    So.  Winsted, MN/Howard Lake Waverly Winsted
Emma Smallcomb        Sacred Heart          L      Jr.  Westborough, MA/Westborough
Miranda Strongman     LIU                   MB/OPP So.  Wolverine Lake, MI/Walled Lake Central
Alysa Wright          Bryant                MB     So.  Wayne, PA/Bishop Shanahan