Saint Mary’s: Year in Review
Observer Sports Writers | Tuesday, May 14, 2013
By A.J. GODEAUX
Belles coach Jenn Henley had only one way to describe the year: a “learning season.”
However, despite a 5-20 final record, Henley was quick to point out that “learning season” doesn’t mean failure. In fact, Henley insisted the year was far from a failure for a team featuring two seniors and seven freshmen.
“When you lose five seniors from the year before, we didn’t start over, but we were so inexperienced,” Henley said.
What the team lacked in wins – the Belles also went 3-13 in the MIAA – it made up for in growth as a team, Henley said.
“We were a completely different team at the end of the year,” Henley said. “We overcame a lot of adversity, with these young kids growing so much just to compete. The difference from the start of the year to the end of the year was huge.”
Junior guard Shanlynn Bias led the new-look squad toward the end of the season. Bias, senior guard Kayla Wolter, junior forward Katherine Wabler and sophomore forward Ariana Paul entered the season with 22 combined starts. And while all four set career high single-season marks in points and assists, Bias stepped up and led the Belles in points, steals and assists. Bias was also named second team All-MIAA, the sole Belle named to the all-conference team.
Seven of Saint Mary’s losses were to teams that made the NCAA Division III tournament. Four of the defeats came at the hands of conference foes Calvin and Hope, top-five teams for most of the season. Ten more losses came by single digits, including a two-point heartbreaking loss to Aurora on Dec. 29, 2012.
“I don’t think we had any defining moments in the traditional sense,” Henley said. “When you’re that young, the defining moments for me were seeing these young kids having success for the first time at the college level. That’s what’s going to set the tone for next season.”
Contact A.J. Godeaux at firstname.lastname@example.org
By MEREDITH KELLY
Behind its strong veteran leadership, Saint Mary’s finished the season tied for fourth in the MIAA, narrowly missing out on a spot in the four-team conference tournament.
The Belles (19-17, 9-7 MIAA) began their season with a spring break trip to Florida, losing their first three games. The team recovered to win five of its next seven games and end its Florida trip with a 5-5 record.
Saint Mary’s got off to a hot start in conference play, winning seven of its first nine games. The Belles, however, faltered down the final stretch and lost five of their final seven games, including their last four.
In the end, the team did not qualify for the conference tournament, losing the tiebreaker for the final tournament spot to Hope.
The Belles received notable contributions from senior co-captains shortstop Emily Sherwood and catcher Morgan Bedan. Sherwood batted .300 and had 20 RBIs, while Bedan hit for a .304 average in 36 games.
Saint Mary’s coach Erin Sullivan said the team’s two seniors excelled at leading the team this seaaon.
“Morgan and Emily have balanced each other so well and left our returners with a great sense of our team culture,” Sullivan said. “I’m very proud of how they stepped up to lead such an incredibly young class.”
Bedan and Sherwood both were honored with senior awards from the Saint Mary’s athletic department. Sherwood won the Competitive Spirit Award, while Bedan won the Marvin Wood Outstanding Senior Athlete Award.
Next season, junior pitcher Callie Selner will return as the team’s lone senior. The Belles’ two other upperclassmen will be sophomore outfielder Victoria Connelly and sophomore catcher Cecily Medina. Selner was the team’s top hitter with a .429 average and 64 RBIs and also sported a 2.10 ERA in 23 appearances on the mound.
“I see all three of them stepping up to lead in their own way [and] the way that accommodates them best and really shows off their strengths,” Sullivan said.
Contact Meredith Kelly at email@example.com
By D.H. KIM
Saint Mary’s capped its final season in program history with a seventh place finish at the MIAA championships.
The Belles (1-5) had a difficult start to the season, as they lost their first four consecutive dual-meets.
Despite its struggles, there were several bright spots for Saint Mary’s. In the team’s dual-meet against Albion, freshman diver Andrea Canacci scored a 189.95 in the 1-meter diving for the fifth-best score in program history. In addition, senior swimmer Ellie Watson, sophomore swimmer Anna Nolan and freshman swimmer Carolyn Neville each won individual events against Albion.
The Belles took home their first win of the season when they defeated Olivet, 153-105, in February. The team won 10 of the meet’s 16 events, and Watson swam the fifth-fastest time in program history in the 200-yard butterfly event.
A week after the Olivet meet, the Belles traveled to MIAA championships at Jenison High School in Jenison, Mich., where they finished last in the field of seven teams.
On March 19, Saint Mary’s vice president of Student Affairs Karen Johnson announced the school would end the swim program, effective at the end of the 2012-2013 academic year.
Belles coach Mark Benishek, who left the team at the end of the season for a job in Seattle, said he was disappointment at the termination of the swim program.
“My heart especially goes out to the juniors, sophomores and freshman that will not be able to finish out their careers at Saint Mary’s,” Benishek said shortly after the announcement of the program’s cancellation.
Saint Mary’s senior swimmer Genevieve Splitter said she would always remember her time spent on the team.
“This is devastating for all of us, but we are still a team and we will have the memories we made and our accomplishments to keep us going,” Splitter said. “My fondest memories were the teammates and the hardship we went through as a team.”
Contact D.H. Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org
By SAMANTHA ZUBA
The Belles brought a lot of potential into this season, but they couldn’t quite capitalize on it.
Belles coach Dale Campbell said Saint Mary’s (10-8, 4-4 MIAA) could have accomplished much more.
“We underachieved, and I underachieved,” Campbell said. “I need to ask for more, and the team needs to believe that they can do the work necessary to play at a higher level.”
The Belles opened the 2013 season with losses to Case Western and Ohio Northern.
Over spring break, the Belles defeated Illinois Wesleyan, 6-3, and Wisconsin Lutheran, 8-1, but Saint Mary’s then lost two in a row.
The Belles, however, broke their inconsistent streak by stringing together four straight victories and pulling their record to 6-4 overall and 2-0 in conference play.
After an 8-1 loss to Albion on April 10, the Belles racked up three more wins, including a win over Alma that Campbell said was among the best performances of the season.
“I think our best matches were our 6-3 and 5-4 victories [over Trine and Alma] midseason and taking care of our other conference opponents,” Campbell said.
As the season wound down, the Belles found themselves in the hunt for one of the MIAA tournament spots.
Saint Mary’s fell to Hope on April 20. A narrow 5-4 loss to Calvin followed four days later, and the Belles closed out their season with a 7-2 loss at the hands of Kalamazoo.
The three losses dropped the Belles into a tie for fourth place with Calvin (6-11, 4-4 MIAA) in the MIAA. Since Calvin had just defeated Saint Mary’s head-to-head, the Knights earned the fourth and final spot in the MIAA tournament.
Campbell said he will set the bar higher next season.
“We didn’t reach our goal of making the tournament, so that was disappointing,” Campbell said. “I just want to take away that we can work harder, play with more enthusiasm and set the bar much higher. We have the talent to do it.”
After a disappointing season finale, the Belles received some good news. MIAA coaches named junior Mary Catherine Faller to the all-conference first team.
Campbell said he wants Saint Mary’s to build on this past season and its positives.
“We will have seniors and a lot of juniors next year, so experience should start to work in our favor, but we must prepare better,” Campbell said.
Contact Samantha Zuba at email@example.com.
By MIKE GINOCCHIO
It was a roller coaster ride of a season for the Belles.
The squad started the season on a four-game win streak and won six of its first seven. It followed its hot start with a four-game losing streak and played inconsistently the rest of the season en route to a final record of .500.
The Belles (14-14, 7-9 MIAA) opened the season with four wins for the first time since the 2006 season and took home the North Park Classic tournament title, as sophomore outside hitter Kati Schneider and senior setter Dani Brinks were named to the all-tournament team for their performances.
The Belles went 4-1 in open conference play, which marked best five-game start to conference play since the team joined the MIAA in 1997.
Saint Mary’s boasted several strong individual performances this season.
Sophomore middle hitter Melanie Kuczek, a transfer from Lewis University, made a major impact in her first season for the team, leading the Belles with 61 blocks and 20 solo blocks. Schneider was named the MIAA Position Player of the Week twice and selected to the All-MIAA First Team for the first time in her career. Brinks was also named the MIAA Position Player of the Week. With her team-leading 812 assists, Brinks finished her career second on the all-time list for assists in program history.
The team fought until the last day of the season, when the Belles forced then-No. 5 ranked Hope to four sets before losing 3-1 and then the Belles rallied to topple Wheaton in three consecutive sets.
Thirteen players from this year’s Belles squad, including Schneider and Kuczek, will return next year. Freshman Katie Hecklinski, who led the team with 351 digs in her first season, will also be back when the team returns to action in the fall.
Contact Mike Ginocchio at firstname.lastname@example.org
By BRIAN HARTNETT
Although Saint Mary’s struggled to meet its lofty preseason expectations, Belles coach Jackie Bauters said the team’s season was a success in many ways.
“There were several girls that had lifetime-best races this season, which is what we try to focus on and improve upon for next year,” Bauters said. “While we had hoped to finish higher in the conference rankings, the competition was tough and the results were not a result of lack of effort.”
The Belles began the season ranked 10th in the Great Lakes Region in the United State Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll, marking the first regional ranking in program history.
Despite their high preseason ranking, the Belles struggled against conference competition and finished sixth in both the MIAA Jamboree and the MIAA championships. Saint Mary’s ended its season with a 19th place finish in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional race.
Junior Jessica Biek paced the Belles with several top finishes and recorded the squad’s best time of the season when she ran a 23:06 at the MIAA championships. The veteran Belles team, which included six seniors, also received strong contributions from seniors Emma Baker, Julia Kenney and Elizabeth Majewski.
Bauters said the impact of the team’s seniors extended far beyond their performances in competitions.
“The biggest positive that I believe came out of the season was the amount of team cohesion and chemistry that developed, largely as a result of our six senior leaders,” she said. “They did an exceptional job of preparing the foundation for our team to grow from next year.”
Looking forward to next season, Bauters said the Belles would definitely miss the contributions of their seniors, but said she is optimistic about the team’s incoming freshman class.
“Hopefully, collectively we have prepared the other athletes to step up and fill the positions [the seniors] are leaving,” she said. “We have a solid group of talented athletes coming in next fall. From what I can tell, it’s going to be a great fall.”
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By COLE SCHIETINGER
Saint Mary’s put together another strong season, both in terms of overall success and improvement.
Belles coach Jason Kolean repeatedly stressed the improvement his team made this year.
“A lot of the girls met their expectations and we still have some stuff to build on for next year,” Kolean said. “Four out of my five girls took off at least a half stroke from their [average round’s] score.”
Those improvements showed early in the spring season, when the Belles fired a 322 in the second round of spring-opening George Fox Phoenix Invitational.
In addition to its tangible improvements on the course, the Saint Mary’s has also become stronger mentally and grown as a team, according to Kolean.
“[Over the offseason], we had our head coach resign, so we had a lot of turnover and change from that,” Kolean said. “The coaches love to see these girls interact on the course. They’ve gotten so much stronger mentally.”
Over the course of the season, the Belles established themselves as a talented, young team poised for success. By season’s end, their hard work had culminated in a second-place finish in the MIAA NCAA Qualifiers, a finish that the team will look to improve next year.
“We’ve set ourselves up for next year, and I think we can really go out there and succeed,” Kolean said. “One of our biggest expectations is to beat Olivet next year, and take first in the MIAA. We’re going to really push to improve and hope that that is enough to beat Olivet or whoever else next year.”
In the fall season, the Belles concluded a strong campaign by turning in another second-place finish in the MIAA at the two-day MIAA End of Season Jamboree.
Contact Cole Schietinger at firstname.lastname@example.org
By KATIE HEIT
The 2012 season proved to be the most successful in program history as the Belles finished with a record 13 wins.
Sophomore goalkeeper Chanler Rosenbaum said she took great pride in helping Saint Mary’s (13-5-2, 10-5-1 MIAA) to a historic season.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Rosenbaum said. “We’re always going to be in the [record] books.”
In addition to setting the record for wins, the Belles, led by Rosenbaum in net, recorded a program-best 10 shutouts.
The season started off strong and Saint Mary’s rolled to a 4-0-1 start, highlighted by a 2-1 home victory over conference power Adrian on Sept. 15. Junior forward Kaitlin Teichman said the win gave the team the momentum it needed to be successful in conference play.
“It was a great game to win,” Teichman said. “They are always a really good team and the game gave us a lot of momentum for the season as a whole. Wins at home especially bring us a lot of great energy.”
Following the win over Adrian, the Belles suffered their first loss, falling 2-1 to Alma. A 1-0 loss to Calvin brought Saint Mary’s record to 5-2-1, but the Belles quickly rebounded by winning five straight games in pursuit of a conference title.
Saint Mary’s closed out its season with a 13-5-2 record and finished fourth in the MIAA.
Teichman said the keys to the team’s success were depth and versatility.
“We had a deep team with good camaraderie,” Teichman said. “You could put anyone out there and feel comfortable about playing with them. There was so much talent this year.”
Despite the strong season, the Belles vacated their position in the MIAA tournament due to a violation of Saint Mary’s Department of Athletics policy.
However, Rosenbaum said the Belles are eager to begin their 2013 season and build off a program-best campaign.
“I’ve never been so excited to start a season in my entire life,” Rosenbaum said. “I’m excited to see how far we go and how well we compete against these teams.”
Contact Katie Heit at email@example.com