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SMC SOCCER: Shorthanded Belles fall to Illinois Wesleyan

Kyle Cassily | Thursday, September 8, 2005

Normally, dealing with a defending national champion is more work than most teams can handle, but the Belles’ soccer team had other factors at play in their 4-0 loss at Illinois Wesleyan on Wednesday night.

Due to personnel issues, Saint Mary’s was forced to put players in unfamiliar positions, a recipe that created some distress on the field. The Belles never got a feel for the game and despite strong play all around, fell to the highly-touted Titans.

“Our kids played hard, but we were missing bodies in the first half that would have really influenced the game,” Belles coach Caryn Mackenzie said. “It was just one of those games that we took on the chin, and we will continue to grow and get better.”

Three of the Titans’ goals came in the first half, a sign that the Belles made on-the-fly adjustments to fight back and take control of the game.

Wesleyan’s Katie Kelly opened up the scoring quickly, netting the Titans’ first barely into the third minute of the game. Kelly was assisted by Carissa Nemmers on the goal.

Tina Rodriguez followed that up five minutes later with the Titans’ second goal, notching the tally on a pass from Caroline Leighton. The Belles would hold back the powerful Wesleyan attack for nearly the rest of the half.

“We played a tremendous second half, had really good energy,” Mackenzie said. “We played with a lot of intensity. We made the needed adjustments in the second half.

“In terms of the outcome from a coaching perspective, we had players positionally not in comfortable places.”

The Titans put away their third goal to go up 3-0 in the 36th minute. Midfielder Lyndsay O’Brien pocketed a pass from forward Amy Slott past Belles’ goaltender Laura Heline.

Mackenzie credited Heline with playing a strong game.

“She made a great effort, handled a lot of shots,” Mackenzie said.

Also coming up with strong performances for the Belles were seniors Carrie Orr, Shannon Culbertson and Maura Schoen.

On offense, Carolyn Logan and Lauren Hinton pressured the Wesleyan defense but could not find the back of the net.

The last goal for Wesleyan came near the start of the second half, just past the 50th minute of play, on an unassisted shot from Caroline Leighton (1 goal, 1 assist).

The Belles had trouble dealing with a quick Titans offense – a team much faster than Saint Mary’s customary competition.

“They made it very difficult for us in terms of trying to figure out a way to slow them down a bit,” Mackenzie said. “They were a very technical team, they just played a better brand of soccer than we did tonight.”

The Belles held the Titans scoreless for the remaining 30 minutes of regulation, making the necessary changes to handle the explosive Titans attackers.This was the last tune-up before the Belles begin MIAA conference play on Saturday against strong rival Hope College. Mackenzie feels her team will come ready to play and start of their season strong.

“We have to take two steps back before we take a step forward,” she said. “We will sort it out. We have the ability to be a really good team.”