Women’s Basketball NEC Rivalry Week Tips Off Saturday; League’s Rivals Matchup for Sat-Mon Home-and-Home

It’s NEC Rivalry Week on the hardwood, and here are six storylines to watch for during the six home-and-home women’s hoops matchups:

Robert Morris vs. Saint Francis (PA) – A lot more than bragging rights will be on the line during this year’s Keystone Clash.  Exactly two-thirds of the way through the NEC schedule, the Colonials and Red Flash are tied for first place with 10-2 records.  The first leg of the rivalry series will take place in Loretto, marking the first time these two teams will meet since their thrilling 2010 NEC Tournament semifinal game.  Robert Morris will definitely have revenge on its mind after then-No. 5 seed Saint Francis upset the top-seeded Colonials last postseason.  The game will air live on NEC-TV as the first half of a men’s/women’s doubleheader on Saturday, February 12.  The women will tip off at 6:00 pm EST with the men to follow at 8:30 pm.  Both broadcasts can be seen live on FSN-Pittsburgh, Fox College Sports, and ESPN3.

Watch the 2010 NEC Semifinal Finish between RMU and SFPA:

Quinnipiac vs. Sacred Heart – A mere 23 miles on the Merritt Parkway separate the campuses of Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart, but nothing separates these two Merritt Parkway rivals in the NEC standings.  The Bobcats and Pioneers will square off on Saturday in Hamden before colliding again in Sacred Heart’s Pitt Center in a Monday evening NEC-TV broadcast.  The Monday matchup, which will air live on MSG Network beginning at 5:00 pm, features the top-two NEC regular season wins leaders in league history – Sacred Heart’s Ed Swanson (158) and Quinnipiac Tricia Fabbri (141).

Central Connecticut vs. Bryant – The New England Knockout is the youngest of all six rivalry matchups, being that Bryant just joined the NEC two years ago and is still completing the NCAA-mandated reclassification process.  Only one game separates Beryl Piper’s Blue Devils (6-6) and Mary Burke’s Bulldogs (5-7) in the NEC standings.  Bryant, which is not postseason eligible until 2012-13, has won three of its last four against CCSU, an NEC Tournament semifinalist each of the past two years.  The Bulldogs won both meetings during the 2008-09 campaign and settled for a split during Rivalry Week last year. 

Long Island vs. St. Francis (NY) – As intense a rivalry as any in New York City hoops, the Battle of Brooklyn has always brought out the best in these two teams.  Long Island, which was the 2010-11 NEC preseason favorite, took both meetings last year by a double-digit margin.  Still, a St. Francis (NY) upset is definitely not out of the question.  Brenda Milano and the Terriers have done it to LIU before.  SFNY became the first-ever No. 8 seed to eliminate the No. 1 seed when they bounced the Blackbirds in the 2007 NEC Tournament quarterfinal round.  Monday night’s clash between these two cross-boro rivals will air live on NortheastConference.TV at 7:00 pm on February 14.

Fairleigh Dickinson vs. Monmouth – It’s an authentic battle between some of Jersey’s finest.  When these two Garden State rivals meet this week, onlookers will see some of the state’s top high school talent playing at the Division I level.  Four members of FDU’s starting five hail from the Garden State, including scoring sensation Mariyah Laury (Orange). The Knights’ visit to Jersey Shore-based Monmouth on Monday night will be a homecoming of sorts for FDU’s Danielle Pankey (Middletown South) and Alyssa Mayrose (Freehold Boro) who both played their high school ball in the Shore Conference.  Monmouth has mined its share of NJ talent as well.  Starting sophomore forward Abby Martin is from Maplewood and played at Columbia HS.

Mount St. Mary’s vs. Wagner – The North-South Showdown features NYC-based Wagner and Mount St. Mary’s whose campus sits only miles south of the battle fields of Gettysburg.   The Seahawks and Mountaineers have been conference foes since the Mount joined the NEC in 1987 and with six games to go in the 2010-11 league schedule, both teams are fighting for their postseason lives.  The two are currently tied for 10th in the NEC standings at 3-9.  Only the top-eight teams qualify for the annual NEC Tournament, the winner of which will receive an auto bid to the Big Dance.

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