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SMC Volleyball: Belles prepare to host Olivet, Alma

By Aaron Sant-Miller | Friday, September 21, 2012

Following a close five-set win Tuesday, Saint Mary’s moved closer to a tough weekend in MIAA volleyball. On Friday, the Belles will host conference rival Olivet. Following the conclusion of that match, the team will have less than 24 hours of rest before hosting Alma on Saturday in another MIAA matchup.

“They are both tough conference teams,” Belles coach Toni Kuschel said. “Both games are going to be tough conference matchups. We’re just trying to take it one match at a time.”

For the Belles (7-5, 3-1 MIAA), there are a few key areas for the team to focus on going into the two MIAA matches, Kuschel said.

“We want to really focus on disciplined defense and transitioning to the best of our ability at all times,” Kuschel said.

Against Olivet (1-11, 0-4) the team will look to do just that. Olivet has started slow this season, as the Comets have dropped their first four MIAA matches. In their 12 matches so far this season, Olivet has won only six sets, losing eight matches by the margin of 3-0. Regardless, Kuschel said the Belles will not take their opponent lightly.

“Olivet is going to be a tough match,” Kuschel said. “We definitely need to keep playing well.”

Alma (7-5, 2-2) has had a stronger start to their season. Saint Mary’s Saturday opponent has a comparable record to the Belles. Still, the Scots have struggled a bit as of late, having dropped their last four matches. Alma will face MIAA foe Trine on Friday prior to taking on the Belles.

To win these two upcoming matches, the team needs to bring strong passing and solid transitions, Kuschel said. For the team, wins start with good team play, which has been a huge part of Saint Mary’s success so far, Kuschel said.

“We want another strong team performance,” the fourth-year coach said. “We need to use our passes. We’ve been passing extremely well, but we want to get in a better rhythm with our middles.”

On Tuesday, the Belles jumped out to a two-set lead but failed to close out the match in either the third or the fourth set. As a result, the match turned into a five-set affair, with the Belles finally hanging tough for the win. For the team to win in three sets, they need strong play from the middle, specifically sophomore middle hitters Melanie Kuczek and Taylor Etzell, Kuschel said.

“We need our middles to perform well to be able to win in three,” Kuschel said. “I really want to see [Kuczek] and [Etzell] up at the net. We’re looking for them to come up with big numbers this weekend.”

Kuczek and Etzell will look to do just that, as they and their teammates will try to come out of the weekend with two wins.

On Friday, the Belles host Olivet at 7 p.m. Eighteen hours later, Saint Mary’s welcomes Alma to its home gym for a 1 p.m. MIAA battle Saturday.