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SMC Soccer: Belles look to succeed at Albion

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Saint Mary’s, currently 2-0 in conference play, can move into a tie for first place in the MIAA Conference with a win at Albion this afternoon.

Albion will be another tough defensive challenge for the Belles – the Britons allow an average of only 1.31 goals per game. Saint Mary’s will look to Ashley and Lauren Hinton to lead the attack. Ashley Hinton currently leads the MIAA with three assists and Lauren Hinton’s two conference goals tie her for second behind Calvin senior Jill Capel.

On Saturday the Belles played Kalamazoo and came away with a 2-1 victory despite not scoring any offensive goals. The Hornets scored two own goals, one in the first half and the game-winner in the 71st minute. The Belles managed to outshoot Kalamazoo 12-9 – seven of which were on target, forcing goalkeeper Kassandra Johnston to make some big saves for the Hornets.

“The game started a little slowly, but we picked up the intensity and created the opportunities that made those goals happen,” Saint Mary’s senior Caroline Stancukas said.

Saint Mary’s and Albion met Sept. 6 in South Bend in a non-conference exhibition game. Albion scored an early goal and held on to beat the Belles 2-1. Saint Mary’s started out sluggish in that game, allowing Britons freshman Allison Oatley to score in the first 10 minutes. Oatley went on to score again in the second half when a teammate’s shot was deflected and she buried the rebound from a few yards out.

“The fact that they have already beat us this year I think will make them overconfident coming into the match tomorrow,” Stancukas said. “We are much better prepared now to give them a tough game.”

Oatley has made an immediate impact and currently leads the Britons with 11 goals and three assists.

The freshman-laden Belles defense will have their hands full trying to keep her off the scoreboard this time around. The group struggled early in the year with lapses in communication but has shown improvement since their first game with Albion – giving up only one goal in their last two contests.

The young Belles will need to keep growing as they enter the toughest part of their schedule. Today’s game will be the second of five consecutive conference road games.

Senior goalkeeper Laura Heline – the veteran of the squad – has been a big part of their recent success. Heline has made 11 saves in the past two games to help lead the team to early MIAA success.

The recent surge has boosted the once hurting team to a respectable 3-5 record.

“We learned a lot from our non-conference games and have corrected many mistakes in the last two games. Our defense is tighter and our passing game has improved immensely,” Stancukas said.