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SMC Volleyball: Hope to be challenge for Belles

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Saint Mary’s will get a chance to notch back-to-back MIAA victories Wednesday, but it will be no easy task.

The Belles (4-4, 1-2) will face undefeated Hope (6-0, 2-0) at 7 p.m. in DeVos Arena.

The Flying Dutch are coming off a sweep of Olivet Saturday. The Belles are also coming off a sweep of their own, over Alma Saturday, and will now try to get a winning streak going amidst a string of five straight conference matches.

The recipe for success against Alma seemed to be the improvement on the mental game, something that was lacking in their two previous MIAA losses to Trine and Adrian.

“We were very focused on eliminating our errors and communicating with one another out on the court,” Belles coach Toni Kuschel said. “It is very important that we work hard to improve every day.”

The Belles have used the first few games to introduce their young freshman athletes, in particular Autumn Nelson, Christina Barra, Emily Caltrider and Stephanie Bodien, to college-level volleyball.

“We have shown that we are not going to give up on each other,” Kuschel said. “They have continued to show a lot of mental toughness and the drive to win very close matches.”

On the other end of the court, Hope’s success this year comes as no surprise, as they ended the season in 2008 first in the MIAA standings with a conference record of 15-1. The Flying Dutch defeated the Belles in both meetings last year, winning in three sets each time.

Hope will be led on offense by sophomore Jacie Fielder and junior Cassidy Bulthuis, who have 57 and 51 kills on the season, respectively. Both individual totals are more than the total number of kills conceded by the entire team on the season.

On defense, the Flying Dutch will feature junior Sara DeWeerdt and senior defensive specialist Kristen Johnson, who have already recorded 41 and 39 digs, respectively.

Following the match against Hope, the Belles will have a break from play for six days before they come back home to play Olivet.