Saint Mary’s had a rough fall break, losing two matches to MIAA opponents. The defeats bring their losing streak to three in the middle of a stretch of nine straight conference games to close out the regular season.
The losses are even harder to bear due to the fact that the Belles (9-12, 5-8 MIAA) put up a better score in their first matchups against Hope and Olivet earlier this season.
In the first match on Oct. 20, the Belles were outmatched by No. 7 Hope College and were swept 3-0. The Flying Dutch controlled the pace and never allowed the Belles to score more than 13 points in a set. The Belles’ main offensive threat, senior Lorna Slupczynski, was held to only six kills, but she along with sophomore Lindsey Stuss led the way for her team.
The Belles played Olivet much more closely Friday, but still only managed to win one set despite being able to sweep the Comets at home on Sept. 22. Slupczynski had a bounce-back game, leading all players with 23 kills. Stuss added 11 kills and junior Ellen Huellsmann stepped up on defense with 25 digs.
Belles Coach Toni Kuschel attributed much of the late-season struggles to injuries to key players, including middle hitter Andrea Sasgen, who is third on the team in kills and has been instrumental in their offense throughout the season. With Sasgen out for the matches against both Hope and Olivet, Kuschel has been forced to rearrange her lineup and bring an outside hitter to fill Sasgen’s spot in the middle.
“We have had a very difficult last couple of weeks,” Kuschel said. “We have a few girls playing all the way around for the first time this year.”
Nevertheless, the team still has three important MIAA matches coming up that could potentially bring their conference record to .500. Kuschel remains positive as she has the entire season.
“I am very proud of this team for not giving up and taking on these new roles,” she said. “I am confident that we can come up with a few big wins this week if we can all play together and communicate out on the court.”
The Belles’ next match will be senior night against Albion, which is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m.