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Belles set to start conference play

Ryan Duffey | Friday, March 19, 2004

After going undefeated in conference play during two of the last three years, Saint Mary’s looks to start off its season strong when it hosts Adrian College Saturday. The MIAA league champion Belles have already had some non-conference and exhibition experience, but Saturday’s match represents the first chance to begin defense of their title.”It’s our first conference match, and we want to start the season out positively,” said sophomore Kristen Palombo, who won the No. 2 singles championship and earned All-MIAA second-team honors as a freshman last year. “Because it’s been almost a week since we played, the important thing for us is to keep the momentum going from spring break.” Over spring break, the Belles flew to Orlando for seven exhibition matches, including contests against some tougher Division I schools. “We really worked hard during spring break,” senior Jeannie Knish said. “I think we came together as a team, and we’ve gotten to know each other really well. I am pretty confident about this team right now.” Knish headlines the Belles’ powerful squad as a two-time singles champion. She returns to her familiar No. 1 spot from last year and will look to live up to her status as a member of the all-MIAA first-team Saturday, an honor she has held the last two years. “We’ve been practicing hard for our first conference opponent, and we’re excited to get started,” Knish said. “We’re looking forward to our first match on our home courts.”All the Saint Mary’s players seem to be happy to be playing at home again. The question at this point appears to be whether the weather will allow it to be a successful one. “We are hoping for good weather, because it will make the transition from sunny Orlando to frigid South Bend a lot easier,” Palombo said. “It’s hard to adjust your game to such a big change in temperature.”No matter the weather, the Belles are eager to take their first steps toward another conference title with a win Saturday.