-

The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

-

archive

SMC Basketball: Belles fall in MIAA semis

Michael Bryan | Friday, May 18, 2007

Saint Mary’s first-year coach Jennifer Henley can’t say whether her Belles lived up to expectations this season. She didn’t have any to begin with.

“You know, I didn’t know a whole lot about last year. All I could go on was last year’s films that I had,” she said. “I didn’t really know what to expect coming into this year.”

Despite the lack of expectations, Henley must have been pleased with the result of the season. After finishing 11-12 (10-6 MIAA) in the regular season, the Belles lost to Hope in the semifinals of the MIAA tournament. Hope went on to defeat regular-season champion Calvin in the finals. Losing to the conference champions has no placating affect on the team, however.

“No one likes to lose,” Henley said. “It was apparent after the tournament how strong Hope was, considering they knocked off Calvin, which was a game we thought was going to be a game. I don’t know if losing ever gets any easier, but it was nice to see that if we were going to get beat, we knew we lost to the team that won the tournament.”

The team was very welcoming and helpful to Henley in her first year.

“The kids worked incredibly hard for me coming in, which was great for me coming in as a first-year coach not knowing what to expect coming into the season,” Henley said. “The girls had it in their mind, and we were lead by a very strong senior class, that this is where they wanted to be, and they worked very hard to get there.”

The season looked bleak early on after Saint Mary’s started 1-6. The stretch included three losses by four points or less, one coming in overtime.

After losing their fourth straight game – to Carthage on Dec. 4 – the Belles started to turn their season around.

“I think we had a very brutal non-conference schedule, with the teams that we played, and played so early,” Henley said. “It prepared us for the conference, prepared us for the Hopes and the Calvins. Being in my first year, inheriting a team not knowing much about them, I think a lot of it is just feeling each other out and trying to find the right chemistry on the floor with the lineups and things of that nature.”

The Belles won three of their next four and closed the regular season on a 7-3 run. The strong finish gave them a 3-seed in the conference tournament and the chance to play a weaker Alma team in the first round. They dealt with Alma fairly easily, but then ran into a Flying Dutch brick wall.

Part of the turnaround came from the play of junior guard Allison Kessler, who averaged 19.9 points per game. During the team’s four-game win streak, Kessler scored 25 points in the first contest and 33 in the last.

Losing seniors point guard Bridget Lipke and forward Stefanie Broderick will affect the team both on and off the court next year, Henley said.

“Stef did so many things off the court for us that’s never going to show up in any newspaper article,” she said. “And Bridget’s performance in terms of running the show and being our point guard is going to be a key position for us to replace.”

But Henley believes change is a part of every team and is something that the Belles can handle in stride.

“Every year every team is different, just like we’re going to be different next year,” she said. “We’d like to build upon our success we had this year, but no team’s ever the same, year in and year out, in terms of personnel and your style of play and things of that nature.”

Saint Mary’s first-year coach Jennifer Henley can’t say whether her Belles lived up to expectations this season. She didn’t have any to begin with.

“You know, I didn’t know a whole lot about last year. All I could go on was last year’s films that I had,” she said. “I didn’t really know what to expect coming into this year.”

Regardless of the lack of expectations, Henley must have been pleased with the result of the season. After finishing 11-12 (10-6 MIAA) in the regular season, the Belles lost to Hope in the semifinals of the MIAA tournament. Hope went on to defeat regular-season champion Calvin in the finals. Losing to the conference champions has no placating affect on the team, however.

“No one likes to lose,” Henley said. “It was apparent after the tournament how strong Hope was, considering they knocked off Calvin, which was a game we thought was going to be a game. I don’t know if losing ever gets any easier, but it was nice to see that if we were going to get beat, we knew we lost to the team that won the tournament.”

The team was very welcoming and helpful to Henley in her first year.

“The kids worked incredibly hard for me coming in, which was great for me coming in as a first-year coach not knowing what to expect coming into the season,” Henley said. “The girls had it in their mind, and we were lead by a very strong senior class, that this is where they wanted to be, and they worked very hard to get there.”

The season looked bleak early on after Saint Mary’s started 1-6. The stretch included three losses by four points or less, one coming in overtime. After losing their fourth straight game to Carthage on Dec. 4, the season started to turn around.

“I think we had a very brutal non-conference schedule, with the teams that we played, and played so early,” Henley said. “It prepared us for the conference, prepared us for the Hopes and the Calvins. Being in my first year, inheriting a team not knowing much about them, I think a lot of it is just feeling each other out and trying to find the right chemistry on the floor with the lineups and things of that nature.”

The Belles won three of their next four and closed the regular season on a 7-3 run. This gave them a No. 3 seed in the conference tournament and the chance to play a weaker Alma team in the first round. They dealt with Alma fairly easily, but then ran into a Flying Dutch brick wall.

Part of the turnaround may have come from the play of junior guard Allison Kessler, who averaged 19.9 points per game. During the four-game win streak, Kessler scored 25 points in the first game and 33 in the last.

Losing seniors point guard Bridget Lipke and forward Stefanie Broderick will affect the team both on and off the court next year, Henley said.

“Stef did so many things off the court for us that’s never going to show up in any newspaper article,” she said. “And Bridget’s performance in terms of running the show and being our point guard is going to be a key position for us to replace.”

But Henley believes change is a part of every team and is something that the Belles can handle in stride.

“Every year every team is different, just like we’re going to be different next year,” she said. “We’d like to build upon our success we had this year, but no team’s ever the same, year in and year out, in terms of personnel and your style of play and things of that nature.”