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SMC Tennis: Belles size up conference rival

Samantha Zuba | Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Belles have made it look easy in back-to-back 9-0 victories. But Wednesday’s conference matches against Albion will be different, as one team will have to suffer its first conference loss of the season.

The Britons (5-6, 3-0 MIAA)  Saint Mary’s (6-4, 2-0). Belles coach Dale Campbell said he knows Albion will be a tougher opponent than Olivet or Judson, who Saint Mary’s faced in their last two meets. The Belles will have to be on top of their game and they cannot play defensively, Campbell said.

“Albion will definitely be tougher than our last two opponents,” Campbell said. “It will depend on our ability to go for our shots, to be aggressive and to not wait for things to happen. We must make them happen.”

Conference meets are critical for the Belles who had a shot at fourth place in the conference last year as an inexperienced, young team. Only two players had collegiate experience prior to the season, and a crop of freshmen filled out the roster. The Belles ended up falling to seventh, thanks to a 3-5 mark in conference matches in 2012.

Now that they have the experience, the Belles hope to improve on last season’s showing. For Campbell, improving conference performance starts with finding the right mindset. Saint Mary’s will have to exhibit heightened mental toughness when they face Albion if they hope to better last year’s conference record, he said.

“Certainly there is a different mindset,” Campbell said. “We want to beat our rivals a bit more and we want to make the conference tournament.”

Saint Mary’s currently sits at third in its conference, but there is a lot of time left in the season. Making the conference tournament depends on how much success the Belles can achieve moving forward.

Team success in tennis comes down to individual performance, and Campbell said he sees many opportunities for individual growth.

“Everyone has that potential,” Campbell said. “Potential means nothing without determination to improve, however. Basically, we have to know our strengths and focus on them and use them shot after shot. There is no time to let up now. All shots matter.”

Saint Mary’s takes on conference rival Albion at home today at 4 p.m.

Contact Samantha Zuba at szuba@nd.edu