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SMC SOCCER: Team set to take on DIII defending champions

Kyle Cassily | Wednesday, September 7, 2005

The Belles will enter uncharted waters this evening as they travel to face Illinois Wesleyan in the final tune-up game before MIAA play begins this weekend against Hope College.

The Titans of Illinois Wesleyan are a much tougher opponent than Saint Mary’s is used to facing in regular conference action. They are defending Division III national champions and play in the highly regarded College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, earning an overall 14-6-1 record.

Illinois has won 10 straight CCIW titles, but due to heavy senior losses from last year is now ranked second in CCIW pre-season polls.

“I think they have some really fast forwards,” midfielder Justine Higgins said of the dangerous Titans. “It’s a really good experience because I think they are tougher than most teams in our conference.”

The Belles are coming off of a strong outing last weekend in the Marietta College Classic, knocking of SUNY-Brockport 4-3 in double OT and losing to Marietta 1-0 in a close game.

“We just want to go out there and go at them strong,” Higgins said. “Coach [Caryn Mackenzie] just wants us to play with high energy and play our best game.”

Illinois Wesleyan knocked off Belles’ rival Hope College on Saturday1-0. The Titans outshot Hope 13-4 and controlled every aspect of the game.

The Belles split last season’s games with Hope, winning 2-0 and losing 3-2. The close proximity with which the Belles and Illinois Wesleyan both played Hope should portend for a closely fought game.

But it all comes down to the Belles executing on one of Mackenzie’s team goals – maintaining mental toughness on the road. Mackenzie wants her players to not focus on what happened in the past, but focus on what her team needs to do at the moment, to maintain the high energy she feels her team possesses.

Saint Mary’s will take the field at Illinois Wesleyan at 7 p.m. today.