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SMC Volleyball: Belles snap six-match losing streak before splitting doubleheader

Samantha Zuba | Tuesday, October 8, 2013


The Belles beat Kalamazoo, 3-1, at home Friday to break a six-match losing streak, then traveled Saturday to Albion, Mich., where they split a doubleheader against Albion and Franklin.

Belles coach Toni Elyea said Saint Mary’s (7-11, 5-5 MIAA) showed a will to win in the victory over Kalamazoo (10-10, 5-5).

“This team has really been struggling,” Elyea said after Friday’s match. “We’ve been coming out on fire, winning two sets, dropping three in a row, so to stay composed together and hit and to be as offensive as we were tonight and play at the level we were at is awesome. It was a goal we had coming into the game, and this team decided they wanted to win tonight, and they did.”

The Belles jumped to an early lead before Kalamazoo tied the first set at 23. Saint Mary’s had several chances to win set point, but the Hornets went up 28-27, and a blocked spike handed the Belles a 29-27 loss.

Kalamazoo ran a three-middle hitter offense that was a new challenge for Saint Mary’s. The Belles usually match up against offenses that line up one middle and two outside hitters in the front row. Saint Mary’s gave up points when they could not keep Kalamazoo’s middles off-balance, Elyea said.

“We got into some trouble when we weren’t able to serve as aggressively, and they were able to run their middles well,” she said. “They had a three-middle offense, which is something we haven’t seen yet this year.”

But Saint Mary’s went on to win the next three sets 25-20, 25-23 and 25-17. The Belles built a 17-6 lead in the fourth set and secured the match victory.

The defense stepped up after the first set, and the Belles’ service performance controlled the match, Elyea said.

“We just played really well out of system,” she said. “The defense really was in control and played well as a team tonight. We were really aggressive on the serve, so they weren’t able to run their middles as effectively.”

Junior defensive specialist Samantha Grady agreed that strong serving and the defensive passing game led Saint Mary’s to victory.

 “We didn’t want to lose,” Grady said. “We’ve been on a losing streak, and we don’t want to feel the way we felt anymore. So I think it was just the motivation from losing that made us not want to feel that way ever again and win.”

Saint Mary’s won its second straight match when it defeated Albion (5-14, 1-9) in the first half of Saturday’s doubleheader.

The Belles dropped the first set but won three straight to take the match 3-1. Saint Mary’s was able to refocus after the first set, Elyea said.

“During our first set, we had way too many unforced errors,” Elyea said. “Our serve receive was not communicating properly, and [we] were taking shots at the net that were just not open. We were able to come into the second set and produce 14 kills, only 3 errors, as well as 16 digs.

“Playing this caliber of a team, it was important to refocus and do what we do best. Our defense this season has been fantastic, and we needed to get back to that.”

The Belles dropped their second match 3-1 against Franklin (13-6, 2-0 Heartland), and Elyea said her team looked tired, especially on defense.

“We looked tired after our Franklin match,” Elyea said. “To play four hours of volleyball straight is a tough thing to do. We needed a little more energy as well as to come up with some big plays when the pressure was on to do so. We had a good game defensively versus Franklin, but our serve receive was not moving as well as it should have on Saturday during that second match.”

The Belles are next in action Wednesday at 7 p.m. when they host MIAA foe Alma at home.

Contact Samantha Zuba at szuba@nd.edu