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SMC Volleyball: Belles battle Comets

Samantha Zuba | Monday, October 14, 2013

The Belles begin a series of MIAA matches Tuesday at home against Olivet that will decide who makes the conference tournament.
Saint Mary’s (8-12, 6-5 MIAA) is in third place in the MIAA, behind nationally ranked No. 1 Calvin and No. 2 Hope. The top four teams make the tournament, held Nov. 8-9.
Five of the Belles’ final seven regular season matches are against conference opponents, and Belles coach Toni Elyea said her team is looking forward to the upcoming competition and opportunities to secure its tournament spot.
“We have lost to three conference teams in five [sets] this season by two points,” Elyea said. “We are looking forward to playing two of those teams again and have the opportunity to solidify our spot in the tournament.”
Saint Mary’s first has to tackle Olivet (8-14, 5-6) on Tuesday. The Belles last played the Comets on Sept. 11 in an away match that Saint Mary’s won 3-1. Junior outside hitter Kati Schneider’s attacking spurred the Belles to victory. Schneider recorded 31 kills, the most of any Belles player in a four-set match this season.
“Kati Schneider had a breakout performance the last time we played Olivet,” Elyea said. “We are looking for our team to play stellar defense and attack well around a strong blocking team.”
Olivet’s leading attacker is junior middle hitter Emma Brann. Brann has pounded 202 kills on the season for an average of 2.93 per game. Sophomore Marissa Guile adds depth at the middle hitter position for the Comets. Guile has 86 kills on the season.
“Both of the middles for Olivet are good,” Elyea said. “Our middles will need to do a great job of fronting them and setting up early for our defenders. We are looking forward to the challenge.”
Junior middle hitter Melanie Kuczek leads Saint Mary’s with 49 blocks. Junior middle hitter Taylor Etzell has 30 blocks and Schneider has gone up for 22.
The Belles are completely focused on playing Olivet, despite the many matches ahead that will have implications on the conference tournament and the team’s long-term goals, Elyea said.
“We are focused on our match with Olivet at the moment,” Elyea said. “When that match is complete, we will focus on what is next.”
Saint Mary’s takes on Olivet at home Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Contact Samantha Zuba at szuba@nd.edu