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SMC Volleyball: Squad set for MIAA challenger

Chris Michalski | Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Something’s got to give Wednesday, as Saint Mary’s and Kalamazoo are set to face off in a battle of teams with 2-4 conference records.

The Belles (6-6, 2-4) recently squandered an opportunity for advancement in the standings against Albion, which also had the same conference record at the time. A combination of hitting errors and an inability to hold a lead led to a 3-1 loss for the Belles, dropping them below the Brits.

“We were very evenly matched with Albion,” Belles coach Toni Kuschel said. “We were not able to finish strong when we had the lead.”

With their season nearing its midpoint and their conference record below .500, it would be understandable for the Belles to feel the pressure to turn it around. Last year’s team set the bar high with a 9-7 record and the conference’s No. 4 seed, and Saint Mary’s surely set its sights on repeating, or surpassing, that feat.

Kuschel, however, has her team even-keeled and focused on the task at hand.

“All of the games we play are very important to win to be able to finish in the top of the conference,” Kuschel said. “However, I don’t feel that my team feels added pressure. They always want to go out and play their best.”

With the losses in the past, the Belles now will focus on the Hornets, who they play for the first time this year. The Belles swept the two-game series last year against Kalamazoo with two 3-1 victories.

But this year the Hornets have a more balanced attack, with a number of players who can score at any given time. Sophomore outside hitter Colleen Leonard is their main target on offense, with a team-high 147 kills on the year, a number closely followed by senior outside hitter Kim Marble’s 128.

The Belles will counter that offensive force with three hitters of their own in senior Lorna Slupczynski, freshman Stephanie Bodien, and junior Andrea Sasgen, who each have amassed more than 100 kills this season already.

The Hornets are coming off a 3-1 win against Olivet, who the Belles swept earlier in the season. The match is schedule to start at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Angela Athletic Facility.

Looking ahead on the schedule, the Belles will have a six-day break from conference play as they play a non-league double header Saturday before returning home to face No. 10 Calvin College.