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SMC Tennis: Belles look to avenge loss

Rebecca Slinger | Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Saint Mary’s will look to improve its play against Alma, Tri-State and Hope as the team enters the MIAA tournament Thursday.

The fourth-ranked Belles will face top-seeded Alma (27-9, 14-2 MIAA), which is also hosting the tournament in Alma, Mich.

The Belles finished regular season play strong with a 25-7 record (10-6 MIAA) and swept Kalamazoo and Adrian April 28 and 30, respectively.

But their record against the three teams they could face in the MIAA tournament is dismal. The Belles went 1-5 this season against Alma, Tri-State and Hope.

Alma handed Saint Mary’s its first regular-season loss March 31, topping the Belles 9-1 and 4-0. Saint Mary’s struggled with Tri-State as well, falling 9-1 and 3-2 on April 17. The Belles had some success against Hope as they split the decision 5-6 and 7-6 on April 27.

Head coach Erin Sullivan said the team wasn’t at its best when it lost to Alma, Tri-State and Hope. She believes the Belles are much stronger now.

“We gave them those wins,” Sullivan said. “Two of those losses were by one run. Kristin [Amram] threw a four-hitter against Alma and they still won, so it all comes down to run support.”

Alma won the MIAA championship for nine consecutive years until 2006 when Hope reclaimed the title. The Belles last won the tournament in 2004 but lost out on the overall championship to Alma.

“The whole Alma [mystique] is gone for us. We won three out of four of the games against them last year and slaughtered them twice. They’re the same team as last year,” Sullivan said. “It’s tough to be on the bus for four hours, but we’re going to be well-rested. To us we’re clearly better.”

Last year, the Belles went 1-2 in the tournament, dropping games against Hope (5-2) and Alma (4-2). Their one win also came against Alma 3-2. Sullivan said the team will do nothing different in its preparations for the tournament.

“We’re just going to prepare like we have for our last 12 games where we won 11 of them and we should have won 12,” Sullivan said. “Clearly, we’re doing what we need to do to get the job done.”

To finish the season strong the Belles will rely on their sluggers, senior shortstop Sarah Miesle and freshman outfielder Ashley Peterson, batting .413 and .412, respectively.

Sophomore pitchers Kristin Amram (1.47 ERA) and Calli Davison (3.48 ERA) will look to continue their dominance from the mound.

Amram has held opponents to a .145 batting average and struck out 157 batters – second best in the league – and was named MIAA Pitcher of the Week for three consecutive weeks this season. Davison, who has held batters to a .270 average, has a 14-3 record.

As for hitting, the Scots are batting a .259 team average. The Belles are batting a combined .351, third in the league.

Sullivan said winning will come down to executing the small things.

“If you look at the records … everybody seems so evenly matched. Any given day can be somebody’s day,” she said. “Hope, Alma, Tri-State, they all split against each other. We split with Hope and we should have split with Tri-State. At that point, it’s whoever wants it more.”

The tournament begins as Hope takes on Tri-State at 11 a.m. Thursday.