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SMC Volleyball: Saint Mary’s wins one of two matches

Conor Kelly | Monday, September 12, 2011

Looking for their first win in conference play, the Belles took on top-ranked Calvin on Friday at home before traveling to Olivet on Saturday.

Though Calvin College dismissed the Belles 3-0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-22), Saint Mary’s took down Olivet College by the same count in its second match of the weekend (25-14, 25-18, 25-22).

“I was really happy with how we played on Friday,” Belles coach Toni Kuschel said. “Whether we were down five points or up three we played with the same intensity. I think that really carried over into Saturday.”

The Belles (2-5, 1-2 MIAA) gave the defending national champion Knights a match Friday, responding to each Calvin run with a spurt of their own good play, challenging each set. In the end, however, the Knights’ superior hitting ability proved too much for a Saint Mary’s team that was outslugged .357 to .144 for the day.

The Belles turned it around Saturday at Olivet, though, as they picked up their first win in their last four matches, sweeping the Comets in straight sets. While at times early in the season they have struggled to synchronize good offense and defense, everything came together against Olivet.

The Saint Mary’s offense in particular shined, hitting .500 in the opening set, with 13 kills and just two errors on 20 attempts.

“I’m very happy with how our offense performed on Saturday,” Kuschel said. “Our outside hitters did a great job. [Junior setter] Danie Brink once again did a fantastic job of setting our offense.”

Brink served up a match-high 26 assists. Junior Allison Zandarski finished with 10 kills while freshman Kati Schneider and junior Stephanie Bodien recorded seven each.

On defense, the Belles held Olivet to a -.154 percentage in the first set and a .000 mark on the game.

“That really showcased the total package right there,” Kuschel said. “That’s how we want to play as a volleyball team, aggressive on both offense and defense. It’s something that we haven’t found as often as we’d like so far this year.”

The win marked the first conference victory and second overall for the Belles.

“A win, especially in conference, always feels good,” Kuschel said.

Saint Mary’s returns to action at home Wednesday against Alma College at 7 p.m.