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SMC Volleyball: Belles aim to bounce back

Samantha Zuba | Monday, September 30, 2013


The Belles will try to end a five-game losing streak Tuesday when they face MIAA-opponent Adrian in Adrian, Mich.

Saint Mary’s (5-9, 3-4 MIAA) last won when it beat Lakeland 3-2 on Sept. 14. The Belles last won a conference match on Sept. 11 at Olivet.

Belles coach Toni Elyea said she wants Saint Mary’s to play up to its talent.

“We are looking for our team to play at the level and consistency that we are capable of,” Elyea said.

Adrian (4-11, 0-7) has yet to win a conference match this season. The Bulldogs have struggled on offense, and opponents have smashed 661 kills to Adrian’s 488.

Bulldogs freshman right-side hitter Jordan Brisson leads Adrian on offense with 154 kills. Freshman right-side hitter Margo Joubran is second with 89 kills.

Brisson’s presence as a left-handed hitter is a new challenge for the Belles, Elyea said.

“Jordan will be a big threat on the outside,” Elyea said. “Defending a left handed hitter on the outside is something a little different and that we have not seen yet this season.”

While they trail their opponents in kills, the Bulldogs have displayed a solid blocking ability this season. Adrian has out-blocked its opponents 117 to 92.5. Junior middle hitter Linnea Berriman (45) and senior middle hitter Nicol Parker (40) lead the team in blocks.

Saint Mary’s has only 65 blocks this season, and junior middle hitter Melanie Kuczek (36) has provided more than half of them.

The Belles’ attacking offense has had more success than Adrian’s, however. Saint Mary’s has 603 kills this season. Junior outside hitter Kati Schneider (213), sophomore outside hitter Katie Hecklinski (132) and Kuczek (123) lead the way by balancing hitting power on both the outside and in the middle for the Belles.

Elyea said the Belles hitters worked this week in practice on establishing consistent production with freshman setter Clare McMillan.

“Our hitters have been working very hard this past week to get in a better rhythm with Clare,” Elyea said. “We will need to be strong at the net and eliminate our hitter errors. We will be looking for more of the same defensively from our team.”

Bulldogs senior outside and right-side hitter Ellie Mindick defends behind the block for Adrian. Mindick (167) and senior defensive specialist Kristi Walker (102) have the highest dig totals for the Bulldogs. For Saint Mary’s, junior defensive specialist and captain Meredith Mersits leads the team with 224 digs on the year.

Elyea said the Belles need to look at the second half of the season and set new goals for themselves, starting against Adrian.

“We are looking at the next half of our season with high expectations for ourselves and our teammates,” Elyea said. “We know the glass is half-full. We have had so much success this season already; however, we need to find our motivation. We need to play together with consistency, with the enthusiasm that we are capable of.”

Saint Mary’s squares off with Adrian in an away match today at 7 p.m.

Contact Samantha Zuba at szuba@nd.edu