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SMC Volleyball: Saint Mary’s falls to .500 with loss to Hope

Aaron Sant-Miller | Wednesday, October 3, 2012

After almost a week off, the Belles fell to No. 4 Hope College 25-7, 25-15, 25-23.

“In the first set, we were just not ready. We didn’t look ready,” Belles coach Toni Kuschel said. “We made a lot of errors and didn’t play the level of volleyball we’re capable of. We were a little psyched out, but then we started to settle in. In the second set, we were able to go point-for-point with them halfway through the match. Then we let up a couple big runs and that was it. In the third set, we finally came alive and played good volleyball. We just progressively got better.”

As a team, the Belles (8-8, 4-4 MIAA) struggled with their hitting, as they hit at a combined 15 percent. The team had trouble keeping pace with the nationally-ranked Flying Dutch (15-2, 7-1 MIAA), who hit at 41 percent. Sophomore outside hitter Jenna Grasmeyer led Hope with 13 kills while hitting 42 percent.

“As a team, we just weren’t quite able to capitalize on the balls that were being put out by our teammates,” Kuschel said. “Our hitters were having a hard time connecting in the first and second set, but in the third set they did a nice job.”

Despite the team’s struggles, a few Belles did shine Tuesday. Kuschel saud sophomore middle hitter Melanie Kuczek and senior setter Danie Brink developed chemistry throughout the match.

“[Kuczek] really came alive tonight. Her and Danie really connected,” Kuschel said. “When the passing was on, it was great. It was just a lot of fun to watch. Melanie really played great tonight and did a great job.”

On the night, Kuczek finished second on the team with eight kills, behind sophomore outside hitter Kati Schneider, who finished with nine. Even though she didn’t lead the team in kills, Kuczek was very efficient and effective when she hit, as she led the team by hitting 47 percent, Kuschel said.

“She just played very well,” Kuschel said. “To be able to hit at .471 is very impressive against such a good team.”

So far this fall, Saint Mary’s has prided itself on its teamwork and team skills, something that took some time to get going Tuesday, Kuschel said.

“Our communication was lacking. We need to be able to communicate the way we did in the third set. We need to play tough and disciplined defense,” she said. “In the third set, we were coming up with some big digs and we were able to transfer those into some big kills. That’s what it’s all about and that’s what we’re capable of. I have no doubt we can do that [going forward].”

For the Belles, the team will look to play at their full potential this weekend, Kuschel said. On Friday, the Belles host another conference opponent in Trine.

“I’m happy about the way we played in the third set, but I know we can play better volleyball. I’m happy that we made adjustments to play better,” Kuschel said. “I know my team can play consistent volleyball, beginning, middle, and end. That’s something we’re going to have to put together to get a win against Trine.”

The Belles will look to do just that Friday when they host Trine for a 7 p.m. conference match.

Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at asantmil@nd.edu