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SMC Volleyball: Belles travel to Ohio for stiff competition

Laura Coletti | Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Belles are back in action Friday as they begin their season with a trip to Alliance, Ohio for the Mount Union Invitational.

Along with host Mount Union and Saint Mary’s, the tournament features nationally-ranked Hope, Mount Saint Joseph, Case Western Reserve, Allegheny, and Geneva. The two-day tournament is back this year after a one-year absence and promises to be competitive, according to third-year Belles coach Toni Kuschel.

“Our competition’s going to be very tough,” she said. “We’re going to be facing some national contenders and we’re going to be expecting a lot from a lot of freshman. They’ll be getting some playing time this weekend as we try to figure out our starting rotation and get ready to face Kalamazoo next Tuesday when we start conference play.”

The squad is stacked with an eight-member freshman class, but also features several key veterans, including a 1,000 career dig player and the top three leaders in kills. Returning from injury and looking to lead the team’s freshmen is senior setter Danie Brink, who is back after less than a year recovering from a torn ACL.

“It’s very exciting for our offense,” Kuschel said. “[Our other starters are] junior outside hitter Stephanie Bodien, junior middle hitter Allison Zandarski, sophomore middle hitter Christi Wyble, and our senior libero Meg Rose is our go-to defensive player.”

The Belles are looking to improve upon their 2010 record of 5-21. The only participant in the 2011 Mount Union Invitational that Saint Mary’s faced last year is Hope, the source of two 3-0 Belles defeats last season.

“We have nowhere to go but up,” Kuschel said. “We’ve been in the gym since Aug. 18, getting a lot of touches on the ball and doing a lot of team building. Everyone’s been working hard in the gym.”

The Belles will begin the tournament Friday at 4 p.m. when they face Mount Union.