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SMC Volleyball: Belles win, clinch spot in MIAA tournament

Mike Ginocchio | Monday, November 4, 2013

Going into their match against Adrian, the Belles had a relatively simple goal: Win, or the season was over.
After a hard-fought match that went all five sets, the Belles (12-14, 8-8 MIAA) captured the 3-2 victory (25-11, 25-22, 23-25, 22-25, 15-9) over the Bulldogs (11-17, 4-12 MIAA), to extend their season and place them in the MIAA conference tournament for the first time since 2008.
Belles coach Toni Elyea said she could not be prouder of her team’s resilience.
“[Clinching a spot] has been on our minds since last fall when we missed our goal by two wins,” Elyea said. “It was a very tough competitive year in the MIAA. It takes a team that wants to put the team before themselves to have the success that we have had so far this year, and we have teammates like [sophomore right side] Jen Georgeson, [junior outside hitter] Brooke Fowler and [junior setter] Carolyn Schafer who are going to do whatever they can to help their teammates. We would not be where we are without every single one of them contributing to the best of their abilities.”
Offensively, the Belles benefitted from a balanced back line. Junior libero Meredith Mersits had 27 digs on the evening, while junior outside hitter Kati Schneider and sophomore outside hitter Katie Hecklinski both posted a double-double. Schneider had 11 digs and 24 kills and Hecklinski had 17 digs and 19 kills. Junior libero Samantha Grady had 13 digs.
However, the Belles cannot spend too much time celebrating, Elyea said, as their next test will prove to be a challenge. For the first match of the tournament the Belles drew the Calvin Knights (27-1, 15-1 MIAA), who are the top-ranked team in the tournament.
Elyea recognizes the challenge, as well as what her team needs to do to win.
“We are not only going up against the top team in our conference, we are once again going up against the top team in the country,” Elyea said. “We love this about our conference. We are happy to have this level of volleyball in the MIAA and be able to compete against the very best that Division III volleyball has to offer.”
“We are going to focus on our serve and pass game, and playing against a tough block. We are going to have to play the best volleyball that we are capable of to get the win.”
The Belles take on the Knights on Friday at Calvin for the first round of the MIAA conference tournament at 7:30 p.m.
Contact Mike Ginocchio at mginocch@nd.edu