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SMC Golf: Belles focus, strive to dominate conference

Joe Monardo | Thursday, September 15, 2011

After a disappointing finish in the O’Brien Invitational, the Belles are eager to retake the course with their first MIAA match of the season.

As the hosts of the O’Brien Invitational last weekend, No. 5 Saint Mary’s ended the first day of play in eighth place before dropping to ninth after the tournament’s second day. In a field that included nine of the top 11 teams in the NGCA Division III Coaches’ Poll, Saint Mary’s was hurt by lapses in concentration, Belles coach Mark Hamilton said.

“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to,” he said. “There were a lot of bright spots, we had a lot of good scores after nine holes, but we couldn’t quite finish off the round. Everybody seemed to have one or two big numbers that kind of skewed the score, but I was pretty happy with how we were hitting the ball and playing 15 out of the 18 holes.”

Sophomore Doyle O’Brien turned in the lowest score of the tournament for the Belles as she earned 20th place with a 164. Senior Natalie Matuszak placed second for the Belles, shooting 167 and finishing 30th in the tournament.

The tournament provided the Belles an early season opportunity to face the top teams in Division III. Top-ranked Methodist took home the title over DePauw by a one-stroke margin with a tournament score of 630, while Saint Mary’s finished with a score of 681.

“There were a lot of low scores this past weekend so we know we need to continue practicing and get better in order to advance to nationals in the spring,” junior Cara Kielty said.

The Belles will have a chance to see more competition, and begin defending last year’s MIAA Championship, on Thursday in their first conference match. The first of four MIAA matches before the two-round MIAA Championships in October will feature all nine members of the conference.

Last fall, the Belles began their championship season by placing second in the season’s opening conference match, four strokes behind eventual runner-up Olivet.

“It’s our first conference match and they all count towards our conference championship,” Hamilton said. “We’ll look to equal our main rival Olivet that’s been scoring similar to us. I expect a real shoot-out.”

After hosting the first two contests of their season, the Belles will travel to Trine for the match. Undisturbed by the prospect of traveling, the Saint Mary’s players are expecting a solid performance Thursday and are looking forward to getting a glimpse of Trine’s home course.

“Our team is hoping for some good competition Thursday, and looking forward to setting our lowest team score of this year,” Kielty said. “We will pay attention to the course and its layout because [Trine is] hosting nationals in the spring of 2012, so we are looking forward to a little preview of what is to come.”

The match will be held at Trine’s Zollner Golf Course at 1 p.m. Thursday.