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SMC Tennis: Belles to face Bethel College

Matt Unger | Friday, April 8, 2011

Saint Mary’s looks to extend its win streak to five and strengthen its MIAA resume this weekend with a non-conference match against Bethel College and an MIAA showdown with last year’s conference runner-up, Hope College.

This afternoon, Saint Mary’s, winners of eight of its past 11, takes the short trip to Mishawaka to face cross-town rival and NAIA opponent Bethel College (8-4) at 4 p.m. The Belles (8-5, 2-1 MIAA) have dominated the annual series with the Pilots in recent years, winning four straight matches from 2007-10, including the last three.

Bethel top singles player, Molly O’Grady, holds a record of 9-3 and will face Saint Mary’s senior Jillian Hurley, who is 8-5.

Less than 24 hours later, the Belles travel to Holland, Mich., for an MIAA match with Hope College (6-4, 2-0) at 1 p.m. The match should serve as a litmus test of the Belles’ ability to compete for an MIAA championship, as the Flying Dutch were conference runners-up in 2010. Also, the Belles will look to avenge an 8-1 defeat to the Flying Dutch last season.

Saint Mary’s and Hope have soundly defeated their only common opponent so far, Olivet College, by scores of 7-2 and 8-1 respectively.

The No. 1 singles match will be of particular interest as it showcases two seniors, Olivet’s Katherine Garcia and Saint Mary’s Jillian Hurley, that have seen each other numerous times in conference play throughout their careers. Last year’s match was a narrow, back-and-forth contest, with Garcia prevailing in three sets, 6-3, 4-6 and 1-0 (10-8). Garcia also holds a 53-22 career record in singles play.

Garcia has been a force in doubles play throughout her career with a record of 67-15, but is only 4-6 with sophomore partner Leah LaBarge in No. 1 doubles this season.

Meanwhile, the Belles’ No. 2 doubles duo of seniors Mary Therese Lee and Franca Peluso and No. 3 tandem of freshman Mary Catherine Faller and senior Jessica Kosinski look to continue their recent success. Both pairs are a combined 7-1 in the team’s last four matches, answering Belles coach Dale Campbell’s call earlier in the season for improved doubles play.