Season Recap: Belles advance to conference tournament
Zach Klonsinski | Friday, May 16, 2014
Led by three all-conference players, the Belles had one of their best seasons ever.
The team’s main goal for the year was to qualify for the MIAA tournament at the end of the season by finishing in the conference’s top four, Belles coach Toni Elyea said. Saint Mary’s (12-15, 8-8 MIAA) accomplished this goal by clinching fourth place in the MIAA with a regular season-finale win over rival Adrian in five sets, 3-2. The match also helped the Belles avenge an earlier loss in the season to Adrian on Oct. 1.
Even though Saint Mary’s was knocked out in the first match of MIAA tournament by eventual national champion Calvin, Elyea said she was pleased by her team’s season.
“To have a fourth place finish in one of the top D-III conferences in the country, where the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the conference are also the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation, is not an easy task,” Elyea said. “I could not be more proud of their accomplishments this year.”
Statistically, Saint Mary’s improved in many different categories from the 2012 season. With all-MIAA selections juniors Kati Schneider and Melanie Kuczek and sophomore Katie Hecklinski leading the charge, Saint Mary’s combined for more than 1,200 kills as a team, something it had not accomplished since 2008. Freshman Claire McMillan’s 922 assists were a team high, and junior Meredith Mersits led the team with 436 digs.
Elyea added that the Belles also performed well in the classroom, as the team combined for a GPA of 3.5 during the season.
“I felt like we had so much success on and off the court this year,” Elyea said.
Elyea said that that the strength in the classroom is something Saint Mary’s has always prided itself on, as the program has won a combined 11 MIAA Team GPA awards in its history.
Without a senior on the roster, the full Belles’ squad will return next year. Although the team qualified for the season-ending tournament, Elyea said Saint Mary’s still has room to improve. “We were not at all satisfied with how many close matches we lost last year,” Elyea said. “Next fall, we will have a very talented group of young ladies that are determined to finish out their four years at the top of the MIAA conference.”