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SMC Volleyball: Saint Mary’s to begin MIAA play in Kalamazoo

Mike Ginocchio | Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Belles finished 1-3 at the Ohio Northern Invitational last weekend. Meanwhile, Kalamazoo swept its annual Green Hornet Invitational.

On paper, as the Belles (1-3) travel to Kalamazoo to take on the Hornets (4-0) tonight in their conference opener, it would appear they are facing an uphill battle.

Just don’t tell that to Belles coach Toni Elyea.

“We are not concerned,” Elyea said. “We know they will be tough. We will need to play to our full potential, as well as eliminate some of our errors.”

The ONU Invitational featured Ohio Northern (4-0), who received votes in the AVCA Coaches Preseason Poll, as well as Heidelberg (2-1), a squad that has made the NCAA tournament the last six seasons.

Elyea believes this opening weekend served as a trial-by-fire to prepare for conference play.

“That is one of the main reasons we went to such a tough tournament to start out the year,” Elyea said. “We wanted to prepare ourselves against some of the top teams in the country so we would be prepared for conference play. I believe we were able to do just that.”

The Hornets have a stout defense anchored by senior middle hitter Quinn McCormick and junior middle hitter Kelsey Hill. Sophomore outside hitter Nya Greenstone was named to the all-tournament team at the Green Hornet Invitational and led the Hornets with 285 kills last season.

The Belles will look to counter via the offensive abilities of players such as junior middle hitter Melanie Kuczek – who was named to the ONU Invitational all-tournament team – and junior outside hitter Kati Schneider, who had 44 kills over the weekend.

Elyea highlighted Kuczek and Schneider’s performances in the ONU Invitational as bright spots going into tonight’s match.

“Kati [Schneider] had a great weekend,” Elyea said. “She had two double-doubles and had an all-around great weekend. Melanie [Kuczek] had a fantastic weekend. Offensively, she was a game-changer for us.”

Ultimately, the Belles’ chances will rest on their ability to limit unforced errors.

“As we went through the weekend, we were able to eliminate some of our unforced errors, which helped, but we still cannot start out a match down by five points,” Elyea said. “We are focused on what we need to do on our side of the net to get the win. If both teams are playing great volleyball, it will be an excellent match.”

The Belles travel to Kalamazoo, Mich. tonight to open conference play against the Hornets at 7 p.m.

Contact Mike Ginocchio at mginocch@nd.edu