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SMC SOFTBALL: Belles to face MIAA foe Calvin Knights before tourney

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Down but not despondent after three consecutive losses, the 4-8 (1-3) Belles travel to Grand Rapids, Mich., to play the 7-4 (2-1) Calvin Knights in an attempt to salvage the Saint Mary’s season. A clutch win would prime the team for a conference tournament charge and bolster its spirits.

“This match is really crucial,” co-captain Kristen Palombo said. “We need some good singles wins, especially after losing three straight to tough opponents. We want to attain at least the fourth seed in the conference to secure a first-round bye in the tournament.”

Coach Dee Stevenson reaffirmed the team’s goals.

“This match determines whether we finish in the top or bottom half of the conference. If we win, we can complete the season over .500,” Stevenson said.

Under Coach Jerry Bergsma, Calvin amassed a 6-1 conference record (14-4 overall) in 2004 and has tenaciously but capriciously contended with the perennial conference elite. No. 1 singles player Amy Zeilstra (12-6 last year) and No. 2 Rachel Pater (13-8 last year) spear the Knights’ chaotic onslaught.

“They came out of nowhere last year,” Palombo said. “It was so weird. They beat us and Albion last year, but didn’t do anything in the tournament. We’re still prepared for a tough match. They’re an on-and-off team.”

Stevenson echoed Palombo’s thought.

“They beat us on our home court last season in the final regular-season game and threw the conference into a three-way tie for first [with Albion and the Belles],” Stevenson said. “But they did have a tough tourney.”

Stevenson feels that his team did not play for revenge.

“Most of our players are new and didn’t experience the loss,” Stevenson said.

But Palombo, one of the few returnees from last year’s squad, remembers vividly and now seeks vengeance, but emphasizes the boost a win would provide.

“Oh yeah, it’s a revenge match. But this is a confidence match, too – it’s tough when you lose three straight matches,” Palombo said. “We’ve played an unusually stacked schedule, facing the toughest teams consecutively. We’ll compete against the easier teams next week.”

Palombo revealed the team’s mentality to propel a push to the postseason.

“We’re feeling okay. We’re not bouncing around, but everyday is a new day and each match is a new one,” Palombo said. “We are reminding ourselves, ‘We can definitely come from behind and do this.’ We haven’t ruled anything out.”

“Our team’s morale is pretty good. It’s been a tough year due to graduation and injury. We’re somewhat disappointed and wished we could have done better,” Stevenson said. “Ninety percent of points are lost on someone’s errors, not an opponent’s winners. If Calvin plays well tomorrow, we will have a tough day. Their entire squad from last year returns, so we have to play our best.”

However, Stevenson also acknowledged Calvin’s explosive, arbitrary play.

“If they don’t play at their best … it’s hard to say what to expect.”