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SMC SOCCER: Belles start MIAA play against Flying Dutch

Kyle Cassily | Friday, September 9, 2005

After dealing Hope College its only loss of the 2004 campaign, the Belles seek not only to repeat the upset, but also double the fun by completing a season sweep.

The Belles open their MIAA conference season on Saturday afternoon against the Flying Dutch of Hope College in the first of a two-game season set. Last season, in the opening game of the season series, the Belles upset Hope 2-0, before falling in a 3-2 close-fought grudge match.

Saint Mary’s is confident in its chances to defeat Hope – the Flying Dutch lost their star player, Dawn Gillam, to graduation. The center midfielder was the MIAA conference MVP in 2004 and controlled Hope’s on-field play.

“She was pretty much the engine on the field for [Hope], everything went through her,” Belles coach Caryn Mackenzie said. “They kind of rose and fell with Dawn, so I don’t know what they will look like this year.”

The Flying Dutch are not lacking in strong players this year, however. Junior goalkeeper Holly Nestle and junior defender Rachael Sauerman are the backbone of a tenacious Hope defense that the Belles will counter with a vicious attack.

Another strong point for Hope is their size across the pitch.

Mackenzie described them as larger than a lot of the competition in the MIAA.

“This will be an adjustment for our freshman, they are not used to playing up against these bigger bodies,” she said.

A mantra for the Belles on the road this season is to stay mentally tough, to not be intimidated by any team no matter how strong it is.

They refuse to get down on themselves, a central aspect to any strong team.

“I have confidence in our talent,” Mackenzie said. “It’s only a matter of us believing in ourselves and playing hard for the whole 90 minutes.”

Mackenzie is glad that the Belles face the cream of the MIAA crop early as it will serve as a guidepost for the rest of their season.

“We’ll just try to grow and get better,” she said. “We are looking forward to playing them, they are always great competition.”

The Belles are confident they will recover from Wednesday’s tough 4-0 loss to Illinois Wesleyan, their largest margin of defeat in over a year.

But the defeat was merely a speed bump, and the Belles are ready to get back on their horse for conference play.

The game will be played at noon Saturday at Hope’s homefield in Holland, Mich.

It is the lone game of the weekend for the Belles.