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SMC Volleyball: Belles to begin season at North Park Tournament

Nick Boyle | Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Saint Mary’s kicks off its season this weekend when the Belles head to Chicago to participate in the North Park Tournament.

After finishing last season with a record of 8-17, the Belles hope this tournament will mark the beginning of a better season and a winning record in 2012.

“Our goal is to have a winning season this year,” Belles coach Toni Kuschel said. “We’re looking to finish with 14-plus wins and make the MIAA conference tournament. Most importantly, we really hope to grow as a team over the course of the season. Right now we have a great culture led by a strong group of returning players.”

The non-conference tournament games at North Park this weekend will give Saint Mary’s a chance to test their mettle, Kuschel said.

“We want to tryout some different things at the tournament,” the fourth-year coach said. “Everything is new for us now at the start of the season. We have some new faces and we will get to see how they figure into our starting rotation. It’s a good time for us to figure out how we can win.”

Coming off a below-.500 season, Kuschel said she believes her team has the ability to fare better in the upcoming year.

“We want to come out and push a little harder and expect a little bit more from ourselves going into conference play,” Kuschel said. “Last year we lost a lot of close games, especially in conference. This year we need more consistency, better ball control and to win the serving and passing games. If we do this, we can come out on top of those close conference matches.”

A strong group of returning players will lead the Belles this season, Kuschel said.

“The team is extremely positive going into this season,” Kuschel said. “We have strong leaders in senior setter Danie Brink, sophomore Meredith Mersits and sophomore hitter Kati Schneider. We have a lot of returners who saw a lot of action last year and are excited to prove themselves again.”

Brink currently sits third all-time on the Saint Mary’s set assist leaderboard, with the potential to move to the top this season. She will be setting primarily for Schneider, who last season was the first freshman to lead the Belles in kills since 2003.

“We’re excited to have Schnieder’s presence and power back for us on the outside,” Kuschel said. “We have a strong group of players this season; we’re ready to prove ourselves.”
Saint Mary’s starts off its season at the North Park Tournament on Friday and Saturday.

Contact Nick Boyle at nboyle1@nd.edu