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Saint Mary’s hunts for conference win

Vicky Jacobsen | Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Belles will be searching for their first win in a conference opener since 2007 as they kick off the MIAA season at home against Olivet on Wednesday.

Although the Belles (4-0) have struggled in conference play in recent years, including an eighth place finish last year with a 1-7 conference record, their explosive start has given the team confidence as it enters the most important part of the schedule.

“We weren’t happy with our conference finish last year,” Belles coach Michael Joyce said. “We’re excited to come out and continue our preseason success and start climbing our way up the conference standings.”

The Belles still possess a perfect record after four matches and have outscored their opponents 13-1. They narrowly lost 2-1 to Olivet (0-4) late last season, but their competitiveness in that game and their improvement in the last year have inspired optimism in their coach.

“We played well against Olivet last year and came up short on the scoreboard, so we know it is a team we can compete with and are pushing hard to be on the right side of the score line,” Joyce said. “We are confident from our victories, but the disappointment from last season is still fresh in our minds, so we should be highly motivated.”

Despite Olivet’s victory last season, the Comets will not carry the same swagger from last fall when they came to St. Mary’s with a 12-3-2 record.

The Comets have lost all four of their contests so far this season by a combined score of 19-3, including a 7-1 loss to Case Western Reserve on Saturday. Still, the Belles are determined not to overlook their opponent.

“They haven’t won a game yet in their [pre-MIAA] season, but have played some very tough competition, so we’ve got to come out strong and fight every minute of the game for the result,” Joyce said.

Although Saint Mary’s earned consecutive victories to open the season, Joyce would still like to see improvement from his team.

“I’m always looking for us to push the quality of our play,” Joyce said. “Some of the turnovers we’ve had in our non-conference games could cost us against tough conference opponents.”

The Belles and Comets will take the field at 5 p.m. Wednesday at St. Mary’s Soccer Field.