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SMC Volleyball: Belles to host Tri-State in MIAA competition

Ryan Kiefer | Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Julie Schroeder-Biek is done judging a team by its record. The veteran Belles coach knows better than that.

This season, her team has faced teams with records of 1-7, 2-7, 2-9 and 3-12. Saint Mary’s is 2-2 in those contests, and the losses were not due to poor play on the part of Belles.

The opponents have simply been much better than the records have indicated.

That’s why the Belles expect a tough match tonight when they host Tri-State University, a team that went 0-16 in the MIAA last season, including two losses to Saint Mary’s.

“Every team in this league is going to be competitive,” Schroeder-Biek said. “You can’t overlook anybody. We have to be ready.”

Under new coach Sarah Steele, Tri-State is 7-5 with a 1-3 conference record.

The Thunder have shown vast improvement as their younger players have matured and gained experience. Tri-State lost only one player from last year’s team.

The Thunder split two matches over the weekend, defeating Kalamazoo 3-1 and losing to Albion 3-2.

Like the Thunder, the Belles are much improved. They have shown maturity and mental toughness, especially in five-game matches – in which they are 3-1.

With solid attacking from Kristen Playko, strong blocking from Shelly Bender, tough defense from Anne Cusack and the emergence of Amanda David as setter, the Belles have already surpassed last season’s win total.

Saint Mary’s enters tonight’s contest on a two-game losing streak after dropping conference matches to Calvin and Alma Saturday. Saint Mary’s played well in spurts during the weekend, especially in the final two games of the Alma match, but it was not enough to win.

Schroeder-Biek said developing consistency will be key to the Belles’ success tonight.

“[On Saturday] we didn’t pass consistently, the timing on our blocks was off and we had some trouble communicating,” she said. “We didn’t play poorly, we just need to focus on the little things to improve our game.”

This is a crucial game for the Belles, who hope to move up in the MIAA standings from their current 8th-place slot. Tri-State is 7th in the conference.

Tonight marks the Belles’ second-to-last conference home match.

With a number of tough road matches ahead, Saint Mary’s will need to take advantage of the limited number of games remaining at the Angela Athletic Center. The Belles are 2-4 in home matches this year.

Following tonight’s contest, the Belles will step out of conference to face Bethel College at home Saturday.