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SMC VOLLEYBALL: Tough challenge looms before trip

Ryan Kiefer | Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Finishing a season with nine of the final 10 matches on the road would frighten most coaches.

Saint Mary’s coach Julie Schroeder-Biek doesn’t see this schedule as a problem.

“We’re a better team on the road,” she said.

Saint Mary’s begins a long stretch of away matches beginning tonight with a 7 p.m. game at Adrian. The Belles have played six consecutive home matches over the past three weeks, compiling a 3-3 record.

Schroeder-Biek thought her team could benefit from getting away from distractions involved with playing at home.

“There are home game pressures that you don’t face on the road,” she said. “You can’t control as many things on the road, though. It’s just a different challenge for our team.”

The Belles will face a challenge tonight.

The Bulldogs (12-3, 4-2 MIAA) enter the match with momentum following a 3-game win over Kalamazoo Friday.

Adrian also has notched a win over a solid Alma team, which swept the Belles in three games earlier this season.

The Bulldogs’ strength is their attack game, led by two-time MIAA player of the week Lindsay Eschelman.

The outside attacker leads the team with a .376 hitting percentage and averages 6.13 kills per game.

Schroeder-Biek said the Belles may have to game plan for Eschelman specifically.

“She’s a strong attacker, and they are a good team,” she said. “We will have to overload our blocking if she causes us trouble.”

Saint Mary’s faced a strong attacking team in its 3-0 loss to Bethel on Saturday. The Belles used different defensive rotations to combat the Pilots’ offense with some success, playing scrappy defense to earn points.

Despite her team’s solid defensive play over the weekend, Schroeder-Biek felt there was room for improvement in her team’s blocking.

“We didn’t block poorly [Saturday]; we were just a little off on our timing,” she said. “We have to make some small adjustments.”

A strong blocking game will be crucial for the Belles. Shelly Bender anchors the middle of the Saint Mary’s defense. She leads the team with 13 blocks.

The Belles focused on defense in practice Monday, and Schroeder-Biek was pleased with the results.

“I saw some good things both individually and as a team,” she said.

Following Saturday’s loss, the Belles’ record sits at 8-10, 2-4 in the MIAA.

Saint Mary’s is in sixth place in the MIAA with all 10 of its remaining matches to be played against conference foes.

After facing Adrian tonight and Albion Saturday, the Belles will have played all conference opponents once.

They will play each of the MIAA teams again during the final eight games, meaning Saint Mary’s fate will be in its own hands.

Schroeder-Biek thinks her team has the proper attitude heading into the second half of the season.

“They’ve seen almost everyone once, and now they are ready for the challenge of playing them again,” she said.

“The team has high goals, and they are real excitedfor the upcoming games.”