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Belles lose in semi-finals

Michael Bryan | Monday, November 6, 2006

Saint Mary’s fought valiantly to extend its season Saturday against MIAA No. 1-seed Calvin but fell 3-0 in the semifinals of the league tournament.

An upset-minded Saint Mary’s squad got off to the fast start it needed to have a chance against the Knights, taking a 12-6 lead early in the first game. But the lead was short-lived, as Calvin – ranked No. 12 in Division III – rallied past the Belles to take a 19-14 lead.

A resilient Saint Mary’s team clawed back to tie the game 25-25 before falling 30-26.

There was more of the same drama in the second game, a seesaw battle that saw neither team establish control early.

The Belles edged ahead late in the game for a slim 25-24 lead, but once again the Knights pulled away late. A clutch 6-2 streak for Calvin clinched the second game and an insurmountable 2-0 match lead.

Saint Mary’s fought until the bitter end, keeping the final game close at 22-22. But Calvin senior Kristen Kalb served out the match with eight straight points to clinch the Knights’ 22nd win in a row.

“We were obviously disappointed with the result,” Belles coach Julie-Schroeder-Biek said. “But at the same time I was very proud of our performance. We played with and challenged

Kalb starred in the winning effort, contributing a double-double with 17 kills and 15 digs. Outside hitter Molly Krikke, who posted a match-high 18 kills, led the Knights offense.

Cathy Kurczak led the Belles with 11 kills, and sophomore Kaela Hellman chipped in 10 of her own. Defensively, senior Anne Cusack led the Belles once again in her final match, saving 25 digs.

Calvin, which finished the regular season 30-1 and a perfect 16-0 in the MIAA, extended its winning streak with a crucial 3-2 win over second-seeded Hope in the championship game. Setter Katie Zondervan put up 68 assists and 18 digs in the championship match, and Kalb tallied 24 kills and 15 digs for the Knights, who will advance to compete in the Great Lakes Regional tournament Nov. 10 and 11.

“We wish all the best to Calvin from here on out,” Schroeder-Biek said. “They’re an incredible team and I hope they continue to represent our conference well.”

Saint Mary’s ended the season with a 17-10 record, and a 10-8 mark in the MIAA. Both the Belles’ fourth-place finish in the regular season and semifinals appearance were the team’s best in eight years.