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SMC Volleyball: Belles excited for first conference match

Aaron Sant-Miller | Monday, September 3, 2012

After an impressive showing in the North Park Classic championship, the Belles will bring an undefeated record to Trine University on Tuesday for their first conference matchup.

“We’re really looking forward to going into a conference competition that’s always exciting,” Belles coach Toni Kuschel said. “We’re part of a really tough conference and we expect more of the same this year.”

Trine (3-1) presents a tough matchup for a 4-0 Belles team. The Thunder is coming off a second-place finish at the Ohio Northern University Invitational. There, Trine was able to pull out three big wins, including an impressive upset over No. 21 Heidelberg.

“We expect it to be tough,” Kuschel said. “Trine is a really tough gym to play in and they have really great fans.”

Not only do the Belles face the challenge of traveling to an opponent’s home court, but Saint Mary’s also faces a team with some talented players, as Trine returns seniors Betsy Irwin and Sarah Radekin.

“That team, they are returning a lot of really dominant players, especially their big middle hitter,” Kuschel said. “She’s always tough, really fast, dynamic, and if we want to win we have to find a way to shut her down.”

That big middle hitter happens to be Irwin, who is a two-time first team all-MIAA player.

“We really have to play well defensively to contain her and combat her numbers that she can put up,” Kuschel said.

Radekin is also a threat, as she earned the honor of being second team all-MIAA last fall. She looks to continue a hot start to the season against the Belles on Tuesday, as she managed to pass Trine graduate Rainbow Bednarski on Saturday as the career Trine assist leader.

The Belles bring their own talent to Trine, having cruised to the best start they have ever had in Kuschel’s tenure at Saint Mary’s. The Belles are graced by the return of sophomore outside hitter Kati Schneider who led the team in kills last fall, the first freshman to do so since 2003. Also returning to the team is senior setter and co-captain Danie Brink. Brink sits at third on the Belles’ list of all-time career assist leaders and will try to improve on that standing this fall. Both captains are coming off all-tournament nominations as well and hope to carry that momentum with them.

Kuschel said the Belles will win the road game if they play up to potential.

“If we perform our best, success will come; the win will come,” Kuschel said. “It’s really important for us to keep our head on straight and continue to play well as a team.”

The Belles look to do just that Tuesday at 7 p.m., as they travel to Trine for a big conference match.