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Belles look impressive in opener

Dan Tapetillo | Tuesday, September 7, 2004

The Belles have certainly gained a lot of confidence since their impressive eighth-place finish at the Division-III NCAA championships last season. But the team will not be satisfied until it achieves its ultimate goal.”The coach from DePauw told us that we should have one goal for the season,”Stefanie Simmerman said. “To win the national title.”With seasoned veterans and an impressive opening weekend, Saint Mary’s team has been making a name for themselves. Last weekend, the Belles began their run at the national title by competing in the Ferris State Bulldog Invitational.Saint Mary’s finished fourth with team score of 636, 41 shots behind Invitational champion Ferris State, who shot 595. The Belles had three members finish in the top-20. Chrissy Dunham finished eighth with a 10-over par 154 and reigning NCAA individual champion Simmerman tied for 15th with a 158 and Megan Mattia added a 25th-place finish with 17-over par, 161.For Saint Mary’s this meet served as an opportunity to prove to its rivals – and to the conference – just how much talent the team possesses.”We know we can dominate the conference, we’ve won the past couple years,”Simmerman said. “It is our mental preparation that we need to work on for theseason.” During the invitational, it was the team’s positive mentality that moved the Belles up in the standings during the two-day competition. After the opening day, the Belles stood in fifth place. It took the confidence and a personal record from Nicole Bellino to pull the team to fourth.”She helped us capture fourth place,” Simmerman said. “She careered with an 81 and that helped us to beat Southern Indiana by one stroke.”The team hopes that its mental toughness and personal bests have left an impression with its conference and regional rivals. Conference rivals Tri-State University, Olivet College and Alma College all finished in the bottom half of the competition. However, the Belles were expecting heavy competition from regional rival DePauw. “Although they graduated two seniors, we felt they were going to be a big challenge,” Simmer-man said.Despite the expectations, the Belles were able to perform 20 strokes better than their rival. The fourth-place finish is just one step forward for Saint Mary’s, who is still expecting challenges during the season from talented individual golfers.”There will be a lot of individual competition,” Simmerman said. “But we know what we are capable of.”