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SMC Volleyball: Belles take down Albion

Joe Meixell | Thursday, September 18, 2008

After struggling in conference play early this season, Saint Mary’s has bounced back, claiming its second consecutive MIAA victory Wednesday over Albion (6-6, 2-3 MIAA).

The Belles (6-3, 2-2 MIAA) moved into fifth in the conference standings with the four-set win (25-23, 23-25, 25-11, 25-17) at the Angela Athletic Facility. Albion, who has lost six of its last eight matches, sunk to sixth in the league.

Saint Mary’s, which has won three of its past four matches, kept the Britons on their heels with smothering defense and opportunistic offense. Leading the Belles’ defensive effort was junior hitter Lorna Slupczynski and sophomore defensive specialist Meghann Rose, who each contributed 28 digs on the night.

Offensively, Saint Mary’s turned in a workmanlike .219 attacking percentage. Senior hitters Kaela Hellman and Cathy Kurczak, along with Slupczynski, finished the night with double-digit kills for the Belles. Freshman setter Danielle Brink also kept the offense chugging with 48 assists and no errors. Slupczysnki and Brink each added three service aces, and sophomore hitter Jacee Watson led the squad with a .333 attacking percentage, finishing the match with eight kills and one error in 21 attempts.

Belles coach Julie Schroeder-Biek has praised her squad for defensive prowess throughout the season, but the team has faltered at times offensively.

“What I think it comes down to is connections,” Schroeder-Biek said. “We need to stay connected with our teammates. We need to celebrate our successes on the court and pick each other up when we are down. We need to connect as teammates before we can expect to really compete as a team.”

Albion and Saint Mary’s traded points in the early-going, splitting the opening sets. However, the Britons offense collapsed under the weight of 17 errors in the final two sets to give the match to the Belles. Albion, who turned in a woeful .085 attacking percentage, were led offensively and defensively by junior Morgan Watler. She ended the match with 20 kills and 23 digs, but also a team-high 10 errors.

Saint Mary’s, who is 6-1 in non-conference play, opened the season 0-2 in the MIAA. After a win over Olivet last week Wednesday against the Britons, the squad seems to have turned a corner mentally.

“The key factor for us is simply playing our game as a team, with the intensity to win,” Schroeder-Biek said. “That is the area of our focus: bring not only our skill but [also] our heart to the court.”

The Belles return to action Friday and Saturday at the Depauw Invitational Tournament at Depauw University in Greencastle, Ind.