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SMC Soccer: Saint Mary’s looks to rebound against MIAA opponents

By Katie Heit | Thursday, October 13, 2011

Saint Mary’s will have a difficult round of games over fall break, facing four conference opponents in eight days, all four of whom have recorded wins over the Belles this season.

“It’s a tough stretch, four games in eight days,” Belles coach Michael Joyce said, “all against teams who beat us earlier in the year.”

After starting off the season strong with a 5-0 record, Saint Mary’s (8-5, 4-5 MIAA) has fallen in several close games to conference opponents. Joyce said he hopes to turn that luck around in the second round of games.

“The fact that it falls during fall break is nice, so we don’t have any other distractions,” Joyce said.

The Belles will first take on Alma (11-2, 7-2) on Oct. 15. The two teams last faced one another Sept. 22 in a game that the Scots claimed 1-0 in a tough defensive match.

From there, Saint Mary’s will face Adrian (10-4, 8-2), who is currently leading the MIAA conference, on Oct. 18.The Belles lost a 4-1 decision to Adrian on Sept. 17. Just two days later, Saint Mary’s will face Kalamazoo (7-6, 6-4) before rounding out the week against Calvin (6-8, 6-4) on Oct. 22.

Joyce said he isn’t focusing on the week as a whole, but rather each opponent individually.

“We’re just going to take them one game at a time,” Joyce said. “We played all of these schools close and had either a close game or long stretches of game where we matched up well.”

Every opponent the Belles will face this week currently holds a higher ranking in the MIAA than Saint Mary’s, which Joyce looks at as a challenge, but also a great opportunity. Joyce said he has made a few adjustments in his coaching style to help his team come out on top the second time around.

“Your strategies change a little the second time you face a team because you know all the ins and outs of how they play, what they do, where they are weak,” Joyce said. “Hopefully we can make those adjustments and get results.”

While Joyce has confidence that his squad will be able to compete in every match, he emphasized the importance of defense against the series of tough opponents. He said that goalkeeping in particular will be a focus for the week.

“Our goalkeepers will have to play mistake-free and probably come up with a big save here and there,” Joyce said.

The Belles begin their fall break jaunt Saturday against Alma in Alma, Mich., at noon.

Contact Katie Heit at kheit@nd.edu