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Belles train in off-season, add transfer from Marist College

Pat Leonard | Thursday, August 21, 2003

Saint Mary’s coach Julie Schroeder-Biek could have frowned on her team’s 7-21 record last season. She could have worried over its 1-13 MIAA conference record.Instead, the Belles’ coach is all smiles over her players’ off-season work ethic. “Last year we were still in the early stages of rebuilding the program,” Schroeder-Biek said. “The focus was on improvement, and we did not pay as much attention to the record. But we made big improvements individually.”Aware of – but not haunted by – the results of the 2002 season, the team is now more focused than ever.”The returners showed great commitment over the summer. They came back in great shape and ready to compete,” she said. “Now, the incoming freshmen are following their lead and working at their pace.”It has been quite a pace.In fact, a handful of freshmen e-mailed their summer workouts to Schroeder-Biek as proof of their dedication. In particular, incoming freshman Kristen Playko has impressed the coach. An all-state outside attacker and state champion from Norwalk, Ohio, Playko has entered preseason practice “really strong.” Perhaps the most significant addition to the team is that of sophomore transfer Michelle Turley from Division-I Marist College. Turley will play several different positions in practice before coaches decide where she will play when the season begins.The team plays first on Aug. 30 at the Saint Mary’s College Triangular, a round-robin tournament between Saint Mary’s, the University of Chicago and Goshen.While the freshmen and transfer become acclimated to team play, the returning starters must take charge as they have in the preseason.Outside attacker Alison Shevik led the team last season in kills (180) and digs (350). She and players like 5-foot-10 Ellise Rupright, the team leader in attack percentage (.205), aces (45) and total blocks (88), will be the leaders.Not returning to the team is assist leader and setter Bridgette Wakaruk, who had 554 assists last season but plans to transfer to another school, according to Schroeder-Biek.The main focus, then, will be replacing Wakaruk.”[Junior] Stacey [Stark] filled that role last year. She had never played setter before, but she has very good control,” the coach said. “This year we are trying to use her in the right side attacking position.”