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Belles top Albion in shutout

Ryan Duffy | Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The last time the Belles had a win like this, Ashley Hinton was looking forward to a great sophomore year – in high school.

Led by Hinton and Jen Concannon, Saint Mary’s defeated Albion College 2-0 on Tuesday for the first time in over four years.

“We’ve really struggled against them in the past,” junior Carrie Orr said. “But we came out playing focused from the very start, everyone played their hardest, and we were able to get the job done.”

The win moved the Belles into a tie for first with Hope College in the MIAA standings, a position the Belles have never been in since first entering the conference.

“We’re pretty excited about this; it’s been a gradual process over four years for this team to build itself to the level of one of the top programs in the conference,” Orr said. “It makes our school look good, and it gives us a big boost. It should give us lots of confidence for the rest of the year.”

That confidence is already beginning to show in the Belles, who came out strong in the first half and wasted no time in getting on the board. In the opening minutes of the first half, Orr fired a ball off the crossbar, allowing senior captain Jen Concannon to rebound it and fire it home for her fifth goal of the season and a 1-0 lead for the Belles.

Saint Mary’s then pushed its advantage to 2-0 when sophomore Caroline Stancukas found Hinton in front of the goal for her third goal of the season. Intricate passing keyed the Belles’ offensive attack.

“We were playing possession soccer, and it allowed us to control the game,” Hinton said. “Our passing was very strong – we passed right around their defense. Our team has the talent and chemistry to pass right around other opponents.”

The offensive firepower is headlined by Hinton and Concannon, who are both tied for second in the conference in goals scored.

“Ashley and Jen had very good games, and the rest of the midfield, like Emily Wagoner, also showed a lot of talent,” Orr said. “We were able to put balls in position to make plays. We seemed to have more of a game plan; we played relaxed and played off of each other.”

Although the offense made numerous improvements from the previous game, it was the effort by the defense that marked Tuesday’s match. Albion entered the game with a lineup including four of the top 15 scorers in the MIAA conference, but was held without a goal through 90 minutes.

“We have a very solid defense; they play with confidence and support each other really well,” said Hinton. “They [Albion] had some opportunities, but our goalie, Laura Heline, had some great saves. Our keeper really came up big.”

Heline recorded a season high eight saves in leading the defensive effort against Albion. Despite their opponent’s aggressive style of offensive play, the Belles were able to hold Albion back.

“Their [Albion’s] plan of attack was to put the ball straight through the middle, but our flat-back four adjusted to stop it,” said Orr. “They tried to put more pressure on our D, but we just played tighter in the back to stop them.”

The Belles seem to playing their best soccer just in time, with a showdown against first place Hope looming next week. For now, adding another victory in the conference win column is important as well.

“These MIAA games are big, and this was our first real challenge,” said Orr. “We knew it’d be a big game to see where we stand, and we did what we set out to do. Now we’re ready to continue on against the rest of the big teams.”