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Belles get hot, take 4 straight

Justin Schuver | Monday, September 8, 2003

The Belles managed to get their first victory of the season at the 2nd Annual Kilt Classic at Wooster (Ohio) College this weekend. Even better, they managed to get their second, third and fourth victory of the season as well.

The Saint Mary’s volleyball team blazed through the tournament, advancing all the way to the championship game before finally losing to Marietta (Ohio) College. Along the way, the Belles knocked off Westminster (Pa.), LaRoche (Ohio), Heidelberg (Ohio) and host Wooster.

“We were very happy,” Belles coach Julie Schroeder-Biek said. “I still thought we could have won, but the girls did great.”

Saint Mary’s (4-2) achieved an additional honor at the eight-team tournament by being one of two teams with more than one member chosen for the all-tournament team.

Both outside hitter Kristen Playko and middle hitter Elise Rupright were named to the team, a fitting tribute to a Belles squad that prides itself on sharing the responsibility.

In all five matches of the tournament, the freshman Playko collected 110 kills, 14 blocks, 49 digs and 10 service aces. Rupright had 36 kills, 20 blocks and 25 digs.

Among other statistical leaders, libero Anne Cusack led the team with 50 digs and Lauren Temple led with 212 assists. Both Cusack and Temple are freshmen.

Saint Mary’s began the tournament by facing Westminster at 6 p.m. Friday, defeating their opponent in five sets by the scores of 28-30, 30-18, 13-30, 30-20, 15-10. Two hours later, they knocked off LaRoche in straight sets, 30-9, 30-15, 30-16.

The Belles returned to pool action early Saturday morning at 9 a.m., defeating Heidelberg once again in straight sets, 30-25, 30-24, 30-28.

With a 3-0 record and number one seeding in Pool B, Saint Mary’s had the opportunity to face Wooster, the second place team from Pool A, in the semifinal round of the tournament at noon Saturday.

Saint Mary’s defeated Wooster in four sets, 30-24, 26-30, 30-26, 31-29. It was a hard-fought win.

“We had struggles at times in that game where mentally we didn’t play too well,” Schroeder-Biek said. “The players just played through it and got the job done.”

Saint Mary’s advanced to the championship game at 2 p.m., but just didn’t have enough to defeat Marietta, falling by a score of 24-30, 23-30, 30-22, 27-30. The Belles played 19 total games in the tournament in a span of less than a day.

“I think we were pretty fatigued then,” Schroeder-Biek said. “With our injuries and everything that we’ve been having, it was kind of tough on our girls to play so much.”

The four wins for the Belles so far this season is actually ahead of their halfway mark for all of last year, in which the team collected a 7-21 record. This is no surprise to their coach.

“We could have won more games last year, but I’m not sure we had the confidence,” Schroeder-Biek said. “This year I think we have that confidence. The girls were really geared toward coming in and having a winning season this year.”

Saint Mary’s returns to action Tuesday as they travel to MIAA-rival Calvin College for a 7 p.m. matchup. They play their regular season non-tournament home opener Thursday against non-conference opponent Rochester College.