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SMC SOCCER:Young Belles squad looks for leadership

Kyle Cassily | Thursday, September 1, 2005

The greatest threat most collegiate athletic teams confront does not come from the opposing sideline or bench. It comes from within. It is the loss of senior leadership and experience that comes with the end of every season.

With the departure of seven seniors from last year’s team, the Belles must come to grips with this fact and rely on new leadership and an influx of young talent. The women will look to improve on a solid 10-6-1 record (9-6-1 in MIAA play).

Seniors Carrie Orr, Shannon Culbertson and Maura Schoen are set to lead the charge, joined by six key returning juniors. Underclassmen will have to play a large role in propelling the Belles to victory.

Sophomores Sarah DuBree and Justine Higgins will couple with incoming freshman Lauren Hinton, Whitney Fron and Mandy Thomson to set the pace for a new season.

“We have a very young team, so basically we’re going to have to set a whole new tone,” Orr said. “The leadership is going to be spread out a lot more evenly. The underclassmen are really stepping up.”

The Belles are shifting their game-plan drastically from last year. In order to generate more offense, they have switched from a flat-four back on defense to a three player zone defense. The fourth defender has been shifted to midfield to put the solid middle of the Belles’ lineup at five players strong.

Last year the team’s strength lay in its defense, allowing more than two goals in only one game. The shift for more offense will not likely affect the strong defensive tendencies, as the midfielders will play a large role in support.

Saint Mary’s welcomes another interesting change that has not been common in recent years – a returning head coach.

Before this season, the Belles had a new head coach for the past five years.

Coach Caryn Mackenzie will prowl the sidelines for a second year. She is described by her players to have a fire that drives them to succeed.

“She is really a dynamic coach, always brings some real energy to practice,” Culbertson said. “She is really knowledgeable and has a lot of background in the game.”

Orr had similar praise for her coach.

“She is just what we need,” Orr said. “She has a pretty clear plan and having her out there for a second year is great.

“This year is going to be a lot easier because we are comfortable with her and her style of coaching,”

Mackenzie is described as being disciplined – an attribute the Belles feel is an important part of their team.

The key to victory for the players will factor into the mental part of the game. They are confident that even if they are scored upon, they won’t allow any pressure to be lifted.

“We are really quick and athletic,” Orr said. “Setting the tone in each game is what we are going to need to do,”

The senior leadership feels strongly that they will be able to instill the ability to win in the underclassmen.

“We are going to try and build their confidences, utilize them, and make them feel a part of the team,” Culbertson said. “We are going to lead by example.”