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Replacing Playko biggest test for Belles this season

Justin Schuver | Thursday, August 19, 2004

When the Belles hit the court to start the 2004 season, they will be short one star player.Sophomore Kristen Playko, who led the team with 496 kills and 54 service aces last year, will not be returning to the team in 2004, instead choosing to study abroad in Austria.”When we first signed Kristen, I knew there was a possibility that she might study abroad,” Belles coach Julie Schroeder-Biek said. “I fully support her in this decision – these girls are students first and athletes second.”She still has a great love for the game, and was torn about studying abroad, but this doesn’t mean her intensity is any less.”While the Belles losing a key piece in Playko, they will also gain one in junior Michelle Turley.Turley, who transferred from Division-I Marist College last year, was injured in the first scrimmage of the 2003 season and missed the entire year. She is now healthy, and will step into a team that has more depth and experience than last year’s Belles, according to Schroeder-Biek, “I really like our team this year. It hurts losing Kristen, but we’re also gaining Michelle.”Saint Mary’s finished 2003 with a 16-13 record (5-10 in the MIAA), which improved tremendously from its record of 7-21 in 2002.The Belles hope to repeat the success of last season, when they increased their win total in conference games from one in 2002 to five in 2003.”Last year we had a really good group of girls who played together like a team,” Schroeder-Biek said. “It was nice to move up in our conference and to double our wins from the year before.”After starting the 2003 season 0-2, the Belles won four straight matches and advanced to the final of the Wooster (Ohio) Invitational before losing in the final match to Marietta. A key win for the Belles came in the last regular season game of the season, when Saint Mary’s defeated Albion in four sets. Albion had defeated the Belles in the first game of the season.The win against Albion was enough to move the Belles into sixth-place in the eight-team MIAA conference.No. 6 Saint Mary’s faced No. 3 seed Hope in the first round of the MIAA Tournament and fell in straight sets, 28-30, 18-30, 28-30, spelling an end to the 2003 season. Alison Shevik is the only player from that 2003 team that graduated, but Schroeder-Biek said that the team would have a hard time replacing her contributions.”Alison was a great leader,” she said. “Even though we’re only losing one senior, she was a big part of our team’s success last year and will be missed.”In addition to the players returning, Schroeder-Biek has also added some talented freshmen to the mix this year.Elizabeth Stohl and Stephanie Bauer both join the team as setters, which should help sophomore Lauren Temple – who served as the team’s only setter in 2003.”Lauren did a great job for us last year, being the only setter on the team,” Schroeder-Biek said. “But it’s really nice to have several setters this year with talent. It’s nice for me to have choices.”The Belles open their season Sept. 1 at home against the University of Chicago.