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SMC GOLF: Saint Mary’s holds MIAA lead, Olivet looking on

Anna Fricano | Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Saint Mary’s golf team is still hanging on to the No. 1 spot in the MIAA, but the Belles aren’t sitting quite as comfortably as they were three days ago.

In their second conference matchup of the year, the Belles fell to conference competitors Olivet College, who finished eight strokes ahead of Saint Mary’s on Tuesday.

Several strong performances by the Belles were enough to earn the team an overall score of 346. Third place finisher Hope College finished the 18-hole round with a team score of 351.

Albion and Alma rounded out the top five with equal scores of 365. But it was Olivet that took home top honors for the day, finishing with the low score, 338.

The event was one of three conference matches that take place before the MIAA championship on Oct. 7 and 8. In the first match one week ago, Saint Mary’s claimed the top prize, overcoming second place Olivet by 17 strokes.

However, yesterday was the second time this fall that Olivet came out on top, the first being at the first event of the year, a competition that did not affect the conference standings in any way. After winning the first conference match, Saint Mary’s had captured the 17-stroke margin. Olivet’s victory on Tuesday cut that margin to nine strokes. Senior and co-captain Nicole Bellino commented on the team’s position for the rest of the fall.

“We’re still up by eight overall in the conference,” Bellino said. “[But] it’s not as big of a cushion as we would have liked.”

The course was a challenge for all teams involved, giving the advantage to the host school, who play the course everyday.

Tuesday’s match was the last in a run of competitions that have left the team somewhat fatigued and ready to calm down and prepare for this weekend.

“We went from one tournament to a day of practice without rest,” Bellino said. “Now we have three days of practice to get out of tournament mode and get ready for Saturday.”

The primary focus of the team for these next three days will be not only to prepare for this Saturday but to make sure they are in the right position to finish out the fall season.

Coach Mark Hamilton has been emphasizing the importance of being mentally prepared to his golfers, who have been taking the advice to heart.

“Coach has been telling us that swing-wise, we’re on the right track, but golf is a very mental game,” Bellino said. “It’s a matter of knowing what to do and then doing it.”

The team will face all of their conference opponents again on Saturday, when they travel to Adrian for the final jamboree before the MIAA Championships.

As long as they can maintain or improve their nine-stroke lead, the Belles will be in position to once again claim the conference title.