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SMC Tennis

Belles hit the road to take on rival Hornets

| Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Saint Mary’s returns to action Wednesday night for its final match of the regular season.

After having their nonconference match against North Central canceled because of inclement weather Tuesday, the Belles (11-8, 5-2 MIAA) will travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to take on conference rival Kalamazoo (12-6, 5-1 MIAA).

The match could have a large impact on the Belles’ seeding in the MIAA tournament, which includes the top four teams in the conference. As it stands, Kalamazoo is second in the conference and Saint Mary’s sits third. Aside from the importance of the match for postseason play, Belles head coach Dale Campbell said he places an even bigger emphasis on the match for morale and energizing the team going into postseason play.

Belles senior Kayle Sexton starts a rally during Saint Mary’s 8-1 win over Adrian on April 14 at Saint Mary’s Tennis Courts.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Belles senior Kayle Sexton starts a rally during Saint Mary’s 8-1 win over Adrian on April 14 at Saint Mary’s Tennis Courts.

“It would be a huge win, as we have not beaten them in many years,” Campbell said, “It would be a great victory for our team and for Saint Mary’s.”

The Belles have not earned a win against the Comets since the spring of 2008, nearly seven years ago. This year, the Belles will be coming off two-straight conference wins against Adrian and Albion, both by scores of 8-1. The Belles need to close out the regular season with the same dominance they have shown recently, because the Comets are a well-rounded squad and their doubles game is especially strong, Campbell said.

“We will have to add variety to our strategy against the [Comets’] No. 1 doubles team which has only lost one match this year,” Campbell said.

Since late March, the Belles top doubles team has been comprised of senior captain Kayle Sexton and sophomore Sam Setterblad. Campbell said improved communication has helped the duo, and the pair have recently come into their own and posted a combined score of 16-6 over their last two matches. The Comets top doubles team, made up of junior Sarah Woods and sophomore Sabrina Dass, has not dropped a game since early April. Campbell said his team is not daunted by these numbers, however, and believes the success his team has had throughout the season will show Wednesday against the Comets.

“We match up fairly well against [Kalamazoo] so we will stick with our style of play in those matches,” Campbell said.

That style, according to Campbell, will focus heavily on aggression and communication at the net in both singles and doubles play. He also said senior Jackie Kjolhede could have both a tangible and intangible impact in the match.

Belles sophomore Sam Setterblad returns a serve during Saint Mary’s 8-1 win over Adrian on April 14 at Saint Mary’s Tennis Courts.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Belles sophomore Sam Setterblad returns a serve during Saint Mary’s 8-1 win over Adrian on April 14 at Saint Mary’s Tennis Courts.

“[Jackie is] in the heart of our lineup and has been one of our solid performers all year,” Campbell said.

Kjolhede’s only loss of the season came March 25 in the team’s 9-0 loss to nonconference opponent Indiana Wesleyan. Since then, Kjolhede has won all of her matches at No. 3 singles, dropping just 20 games of a total 92.

Campbell said it will not be easy to win against Kalamazoo, but his team has put in the time and energy on specific aspects of the game, whether it be play at the net or endurance in the backcourt, in order to win.

“We just have to bring our A-game and work together,” Campbell said.

With a win against Kalamazoo, the Belles would improve to 6-2 in the MIAA and move into the second spot in the conference to close out the season. As the Belles look toward postseason play starting April 30, a win against the Comets would go a long way in giving the Belles confidence in their pursuit of a conference tournament championship, Campbell said.

The Belles close out their season Wednesday in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Matches are set to begin at 4 p.m.

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