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SMC VOLLEYBALL: Belles take five-game win

Ryan Kiefer | Friday, September 23, 2005

Scoring 15 points in a row is impressive in basketball.

In volleyball it’s almost unheard of.

But not for Saint Mary’s.

Down two games to one to Manchester College and trailing 26-21 in the fourth game, the Belles stormed back with a 15-0 run, taking game four and jumping out to a 6-0 lead in game five.

The Belles hung on to win the fifth game and take the match, 22-30, 30-21, 28-30, 30-26, 15-11.

The win marked the Belles’ third win in a row with all matches going five games. It was the Belles’ seventh win of the year, surpassing their total from all of last season.

Saint Mary’s (7-7, 1-2) used scrappy defense and timely hitting to put together the decisive run. Libero Anne Cusack had two spectacular digs during a lengthy point that tied the fourth game at 26. Belles Coach Julie Schroeder-Biek identified this point as critical to the Belles’ turnaround.

“Anne’s digs sparked our team,” she said. “We needed that spark. The whole team rallied after that.”

Saint Mary’s also played tough defense at the net. Shelly Bender anchored the defense in the middle and came up with timely blocks throughout the match. Schroeder-Biek acknowledged Bender’s vocal leadership on the court.

“At one point Shelly said ‘Nothing is coming over this net.’ It’s amazing what happens when one person steps up like that, the whole team responds,” Schroeder-Biek said.

The win was hard-fought for Saint Mary’s. Manchester, despite its 2-10 record, played a very solid match, especially on the defensive end. The Spartans dove to the floor countless times, foiling certain Belle kills. Schroeder-Biek credited her hitters for staying aggressive despite the Manchester defense.

“Manchester always has a scrappy team,” she said. “We talked about that coming in … We needed to have the persistence and drive to continue hitting. Tonight we did that and we kept the ball alive long enough for our hitters to find holes.”

The Belles started the match slowly, losing the first five points. A seesaw first game saw Manchester come up with several kills that put the Belles on their heels. After tying the game at 12, Saint Mary’s lost two consecutive points and trailed for the remainder of the first game.

Saint Mary’s used a 10-4 run to take a 14-10 lead in game two. Manchester would not relent, however, forcing the Belles to come up with precisely placed kills to win points. The Belles played some of their most aggressive volleyball late in the second game, scoring the last five points to level the match.

Game three was the closest of the match, with no team gaining a lead of more than three points. Manchester led 23-20 late but proceeded to miss three of their next five serves into the net, allowing the Belles to get back into the game. But the Spartans did not break, combining their tough defense with solid passing to produce an efficient offense and take game three.

The Spartans engineered a 10-0 run to build a 12-6 in the fourth game. They would not relinquish the lead until the Belles tied the game at 26. Manchester would not lead the rest of the night.

Saint Mary’s is playing some of its best volleyball of the season. The Belles are playing with confidence and energy that had been absent earlier in the campaign. The Belles will need to be in top form this weekend as the MIAA’s top two teams from last season, Calvin and Alma will visit the Angela Athletic Center Saturday. The Belles are eager to face their biggest test of the season thus far.

“In the huddle after the game the girls were already talking about this weekend. They said they were ready,” coach Schroeder-Biek said.

The Belles will have to turn around recent history if they hope to win Saturday. In five matches combined against Calvin and Alma last season, the Belles did not win a single game.

Schroeder-Biek said that Alma lost several key contributors from last year, but also added that they are still a strong team. Alma is just 2-12 this season but 2-1 in the MIAA.

They have lost to several nationally ranked teams.

Calvin was undefeated in conference last year, but suffered a loss to Hope earlier this season. Their record stands at 9-4, 2-1 in conference.

Schroeder-Biek felt there was no clear cut favorite in the conference and that the Belles could establish themselves at the top .

“It’s up for grabs. It’s anyone’s conference right now,” she said.

The most important thing for Schroeder-Biek was that her team was playing with energy and confidence heading into the crucial weekend.

“So many people stepped up tonight,” she said.