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SMC Volleyball: Belles fall to Hope and Calvin

Mike Ginocchio | Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Belles faced one of their toughest stretches of the season this weekend when they took on the two top-ranked teams in the country.

Despite a strong effort, the Belles (5-8, 3-4 MIAA) dropped both matches, first losing to the Hope College Dutch over three sets (25-9, 25-16, 25-20) on Friday before dropping their match to the Calvin College Knights in three sets (25-13, 25-15, 25-16) on Saturday.

In the first set against Hope (14-1, 5-1), the Dutch raced to a 16-6 lead, eventually taking the first set 25-9. During this set, the Dutch had 15 kills on 25 attempts with no errors. The Belles were unable to mount a comeback.

The second set also featured Hope running to an early lead, this time jumping up 8-2. However, the Belles fought back behind the play of junior middle hitter Taylor Etzell, sophomore outside hitter Katie Hecklinski, and a Hope error to bring the score to 11-9. However, the Dutch would rally back to score seven of the next nine points on their way to taking the second set 25-16.

The third set featured the Belles jumping to a 6-0 lead, forcing Hope to burn an early timeout. The Belles extended their lead to 7-1, but Hope would respond with an eight-point run to go up 9-7. Behind this turnaround, the Dutch would take the set 25-20 and the match 3-0. Highlights for the Belles included Hecklinski and junior outside hitter Kati Schneider tallying four kills each, junior libero Meredith Mersits compiling 10 digs, and freshman setter Clare McMillan contributing 10 assists.

Against Calvin, the Belles again found themselves in an early hole when the Knights jumped to a 9-3 lead in the first set Saturday. Calvin had a blistering .462 attack percentage to the Belles’ .062, and would take the set 25-13.

In the second set, the Belles would break a 5-5 tie with a four-point run to take an early 9-5 lead. After a Knights (14-0, 6-0) timeout, however, Calvin rattled off 10 of the next 12 points to go up 15-11. After the Belles added one more, the Knights grabbed a six-point spurt before cruising to a 25-15 split.

In the third set, the Belles again refused to back down and took an early 4-1 lead. After the set was tied at 4-4 and again at 6-6, Calvin hit a five-point streak that ended up with them claiming the final set 25-16.

Against the Knights, Schneider stood out with 15 kills and 10 digs for her ninth double-double of the year. McMillan added 24 assists, and Mersits chipped in 10 digs for the Belles.

The Belles resume play Wednesday, when they host the Manchester Spartans at 7 p.m.