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SMC Volleyball: Belles out to perfect start

Aaron Sant-Miller | Monday, September 3, 2012

For the first time in coach Toni Kuschel’s four-year tenure at Saint Mary’s, the Belles sit at 4-0 to start the season. This past weekend, the team traveled to North Park for the North Park Classic, where they collected four wins in dominant fashion, scoring three 3-1 victories and a 3-0 victory over IU Northwest.

“Being the first tournament of the year, we just really wanted to go in, play our best, figure out a starting rotation and try a few new things,” Kuschel said. “We were able to win four matches and be very successful, so it’s pretty exciting.”

Friday evening, the Belles (4-0) claimed the first victory of the season against IU Northwest (0-7). The win was highlighted by a superb performance by sophomore outside hitter Kati Schneider, who led the team with nine kills. Freshman setter Abby White also started the season well with 35 assists in her first collegiate match.

Later on Friday, the Belles defeated Howard Payne (3-1), 3-1. Against the Yellow Jackets, Schneider continued her impressive day with 14 kills and 14 digs, while getting help from freshman outside hitter Katie Hecklinski, who led the team with 19 kills and provided defensive help with 11 digs and two blocks.

The impressive showing continued Saturday as Saint Mary’s took on North Park (2-2) and Kenyon (1-3) and claimed two more 3-1 victories. Schneider and Hecklinski, who combined for a total of 47 kills on the day, again paced the offense.

“They both really owned their roles this weekend and really led by example,” Kuschel said. “Speaking of freshmen, [Hecklinski] being able to come in and put up numbers like that was pretty impressive.”

The Belles also got an added boost Saturday as senior Danie Brink – the team’s lone upperclassman – returned to the lineup, totaling 72 assists, 19 digs and six aces. That performance led to Brink being named, along with Schneider, to the all-tournament team while playing in only two of the four games.

And even though there were plenty of impressive performances, Kuschel said she believes her squad’s impressive weekend was a result of the team functioning well together.

“It was a really exciting weekend, and it was definitely a team effort,” Kuschel said. “Everyone contributed to our success this weekend and we got great play out of our role players.”

A lot of this success has to do with the team developing a strong chemistry early on, despite being a very young team, Kuschel said. The Belles’ roster of 14 players includes no juniors and only one senior.

“I thought we played really well together, and being an extremely young team, we have great leadership,” Kuschel said. “I just felt like this was a team that had been playing together for a while.”

For Saint Mary’s, conference play begins on Tuesday as the Belles travel to Trine.

“We’re really excited to get into conference competition, but we’re really hoping to play together as a team and take it one set at a time,” said Kuschel.

The Belles will look to do just that Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Trine.

Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at asantmil@nd.edu