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SMC Volleyball: Belles prep for tough conference slate

Samantha Zuba | Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Belles head to Holland, Mich., on Friday to take on No. 5 Hope and return home to challenge No. 1 Calvin on Saturday in two tough MIAA conference matches.

The Belles (5-6, 3-2 MIAA) are prepared for the challenge, according to Belles coach Toni Elyea.

“We are focused on playing the best volleyball and being the best when it is needed,” Elyea said. “We are so excited to have such great teams playing in our conference and we believe that we are up for the challenge.”

Hope (12-1, 3-1 MIAA) runs a fast offense that has outhit opponents 564 kills to 364 this season. But the Flying Dutch don’t just attack often-they hit accurately. Hope has a .287 team attacking percentage. Junior outside hitter Jenna Grasmeyer averages 4.15 kills per game to drive Hope’s offense.

If Saint Mary’s serves with precision and power, the Belles can confuse the Flying Dutch in transition and slow down their offense, Elyea said.

“Our defense this season has been great when we are transitioning well, however it still needs to be faster,” Elyea said. “Hope will be running a very fast offense so we will need to continue working on our serving to challenge them as much as possible.”

Calvin (13-0, 5-0 MIAA) handed Hope its only loss of the season Tuesday in a 3-0 sweep. The Knights run a high-powered offense with physical players at the net, and Calvin has 84 blocks this season, compared to 46 for opponents.

Saint Mary’s will need to challenge the Knights at the net and showcase its best ball-handling skills, Elyea said. Junior middle hitter Melanie Kuczek is the Belles’ strongest blocking threat with 29 of 52 total blocks for Saint Mary’s.

“Calvin has very tall, physical players,” Elyea said. “Our ball control and offense will have to be very efficient on Saturday to beat them.”

The hitting talent of Hope and Calvin will test the Belles’ defense, but Saint Mary’s has adjusted well to playing out of system during transition play this season. According to Elyea, this will be one of the biggest strengths for her team this weekend.

The bottom line, Elyea said, is each player must play to the best of her ability.

“We will need to go out onto the court and focus on each point as an opportunity to get better,” Elyea said. “It is going to take every single player to come up with their best game to beat both of these teams this weekend.”

Saint Mary’s faces off against Hope on Friday at 7 p.m. in Holland, Mich., and against Calvin on Saturday at 12 p.m. at home.

Contact Samantha Zuba at szuba@nd.edu