-

The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

-

Sports

SMC Sports: Year in Review

, , , , , and | Friday, May 15, 2015

Lacrosse

Despite an often an up-and-down season, Saint Mary’s improved during its second campaign as a varsity sport.

The Belles (7-10, 2-6 MIAA) earned five more wins than their first season, in which they finished 2-13 overall and 1-7 in MIAA play.

The Belles kicked off their season by travelling to Oregon to participate in a spring break tournament where they picked up their first win of the season against Linfield, 16-6.

Following that victory, the Belles returned home and defeated Defiance in their first regular season game, 14-5. After winning back-to-back games for the first time in program history, Saint Mary’s alternated wins and losses for nearly a month.

This pattern lasted until Saint Mary’s ran into a rough patch during mid-April, losing four games in a row against the MIAA’s top teams to close out conference play. The Belles did, however, finish the season on a high note with an 8-6 win against Dallas at home April 28.

Despite the tough conclusion to the season, Belles head coach Amy Long said she saw a great amount of growth this year.

“We have improved significantly in two short years,” Long said. “This season was a vast improvement from our inaugural season, and I expect to continue that trend next year. We expect to have a winning season next year and plan to make the conference tournament.”

As the program looks ahead to next season, Long said she believes the added depth will be key for the program’s continued progress.

“Looking forward to next season, we will be able to add some depth to our team,” Long said, “We have eight freshman coming in, and having a larger roster size will be a huge help. We had quite a few unlucky injuries this year and having more players, especially some talented freshman, will help minimize the effect that injuries have on our performance. We had a great, hardworking group this year, and we were able to accomplish a lot of our goals.”

Cross Country

Saint Mary’s experienced a season of ups and downs this year, ultimately finishing seventh in the MIAA.

After two wins and two losses against nonconference opponents, the Belles struggled early in conference play, losing their MIAA opener to Kalamazoo, 2-1, and four of the next five games, with a win over Calvin providing their only points. Junior midfielder and captain Maggie McLaughlin said the Belles had difficulty bouncing back from the defeat to Kalamazoo.

“I think the first conference game always sets the tone for the season,” McLaughlin said. “We lost a close game to start conference play and struggled to come back from that.”

Results did improve, however, as the Belles earned three wins and a tie in the next five games, thanks in part to two late goals. With two minutes to go against Trine on Oct. 4, sophomore forward Liza Felix finished from twelve yards out to give Saint Mary’s the 1-0 win at home. At Alma on Oct. 14, after the Scots came back from a 2-0 deficit to tie it up at two, sophomore midfielder Jenn Jarmy scored the winner in the final two seconds.

“It was one of the most exciting goals I have ever experienced,” McLaughlin said of Jarmy’s goal. “We let them back in that game during the second half so to get that win was a really good feeling.”

The Belles’ midseason run was not enough to make the conference tournament, though, as two ties and no wins in their final five games put them in seventh place.

“We had hoped to qualify for the conference tournament,” said McLaughlin. “Not meeting that goal was pretty disappointing, but we achieved a lot this year.”

On March 17, Saint Mary’s announced Ken Nuber, former director of coaching for the Junior Irish Soccer Club, had been appointed head coach, replacing Michael Joyce. McLaughlin said she hopes the change can allow the program to grow.

“Next season will bring a lot of changes,” McLaughlin said. “New field, new coach, new team and a lot to prove.

“I think all of us are ready to rise to the occasion. We’re looking forward to the opportunity, and learning from Coach Nuber, who has been a great fit for our program.”

Volleyball

Following a 2014 season in which it finished tied for fourth in the MIAA, Saint Mary’s bid farewell to a deep and talented senior class that changed the culture of the program.

Although the Belles (15-13, 8-8 MIAA) did not qualify for any postseason tournaments, head coach Toni Elyea said her team constantly improved this season.

Belles senior Kati Schneider lines up a serve in Saint Mary's 3-0 loss to Hope on Oct. 31 at Angela Athletic Facility.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Belles senior Kati Schneider lines up a serve in Saint Mary’s 3-0 loss to Hope on Oct. 31 at Angela Athletic Facility.

“It was the highest level of volleyball that Saint Mary’s has ever played,” Elyea said. “I am so proud of our whole team and all of their hard work and dedication to each other.”

It was the first 15-win season for the Belles since 2008, but they ultimately fell short in their quest to play in the postseason for the second consecutive season. They struggled against the conference’s top teams, finishing a combined 0-8 against the four teams that placed ahead of them in MIAA play. Elyea said missing out on the postseason will motivate her team for next year.

“It was so difficult not to make this year’s tournament,” Elyea said. “ … We are going to take that to fuel our passion to get better this offseason.”

Despite falling short of their end-of-the-season goals, Elyea said she was proud of her team’s accomplishments.

“[We had] four starters out at different times during this season, [but were] still able to put a strong team out on the court,” Elyea said. “Having so much depth this year and having underclassmen step up was so great to see.”

However, Elyea said she was most impressed with the leadership the team’s six seniors displayed this season.

“These special seniors have been my family for the past four years,” Elyea said. “I am going to miss them dearly. What they have done for our program is far above any expectations that I had.  As first-years, we joked about how we were going to ‘raise the standards’ of what it meant to be a part of our program, and they have done more than that. They have a combined GPA of 3.75, have earned MIAA honor roll 19 times, and four of them will be graduating as the top student in their major.”

Elyea said this class’s leadership has paved the way for future success for the program.

“Because of the time and dedication they have put in, our underclassmen have a clear vision of what it takes to compete at their highest level and be the best on and off the court that they can be,” Elyea said. “We have a very strong group returning, and we know there are big things in store for their future as well.”

Basketball

Saint Mary’s began the season with a young roster and expectations of snagging a conference tournament bid, but ultimately finished far short of that goal.

The Belles (3-22, 1-15 MIAA) went into the season with a roster featuring seven freshmen on a squad of 14 players.

“I think the first season for any freshmen is a huge learning curve,” Belles head coach Jennifer Henley said.

The Belles began the season with three tough nonconference losses to Wheaton, North Park and North Central before earning their first two wins of the season against Trinity International and Anderson at the North Central Classic in Naperville, Illinois. The Belles extending the winning streak to three games with a 64-61 win over Alma in their MIAA conference opener Dec. 3.

That was the last victory of the season for Saint Mary’s, however; the Belles finished the season on a 19-game losing streak. They were in a number of close games, most notably overtime losses to Adrian and Kalamazoo and a three-point loss to Albion, but the Belles could not pull out another victory. Henley said her team was better than the final record showed, though.

“As the season progressed, we saw signs of improvement along the way that will be valuable for next year,” Henley said.

Saint Mary’s is losing one senior, guard Ariana Paul, to graduation this spring. Paul finished her Saint Mary’s career 11th on the all-time scoring list, notching 1,011 points in her four-year career. She also finished fifth on the all-time rebounding list with 643 career rebounds and collected 214 steals, fourth in Belles’ history.

Paul’s offensive production and overall level of play earned her second team all-MIAA honors at the end of the season.

“[Paul] will definitely be missed as she carried us on offense this season,” Henley said.

Henley also noted the seven freshmen on the roster will have to step up and take ownership of the team with Paul’s departure.

While 2014-15 did not unfold in the way the Belles were aiming for, Henley said she is confident with the fundamentals the team developed this season and hopes the Belles will rebound next year.

Tennis

Saint Mary’s ended its 2014-15 season with an MIAA conference tournament loss to top-seeded Hope on April 30.

Following the recent end to its season, Belles head coach Dale Campbell reflected on how his team grew throughout the course of the year and how younger players began to take ownership of the team.

“I think we played as a team and worked for each other,” Campbell said. “We gained experience with the younger players, and the juniors and sophomores got more time in the lineup in new positions to gain experience.”

The Belles (11-10, 5-3 MIAA) started off their season with a 2-3 record going into their week-long spring break trip in early March. Over the break, Campbell said the Belles achieved their best win of the season against a nonconference opponent in beating Coe, 5-4.

Conference play went favorably for the Belles this season, as they finished 5-3 in the MIAA, earning them fourth place in the conference and a trip to the MIAA tournament.  The Belles were dominant at times during the regular season, racking up wins against Alma, Olivet, Trine, Adrian and Albion. Campbell was very pleased with the team’s conference performance this year, especially against Albion, whom the Belles beat 8-1.

“Our win over Albion in fairly dominant fashion was nice,” Campbell said.

Even though the Belles lost 5-0 to the Flying Dutch in the MIAA tournament, Campbell said he liked what he saw out of his team against a tough opponent.

“I liked the way we played against Hope in the tournament, as we played better despite the score,” Campbell said, “They are ranked No. 26 nationally and may be playing stronger than that.”

Overall, Campbell said he was impressed with his team’s performance on the year.

“This [year] was a success, and most of our goals were accomplished. I think we wished we would have beaten Calvin and gotten the No. 3 seed in the tournament, but our major goal was just making the tournament,” Campbell said.

Belles junior Andrea Fetters earned second team all-MIAA honors following her performance at the top of the singles lineup and the second doubles pair for the Belles.

On the heels of a successful season, Campbell said his team will continue working on the details of its game so next year the Belles will be more competitive for a conference title.

Soccer

Saint Mary’s experienced a season of ups and downs this year, ultimately finishing seventh in the MIAA.

After two wins and two losses against nonconference opponents, the Belles struggled early in conference play, losing their MIAA opener to Kalamazoo, 2-1, and four of the next five games, with a win over Calvin providing their only points. Junior midfielder and captain Maggie McLaughlin said the Belles had difficulty bouncing back from the defeat to Kalamazoo.

“I think the first conference game always sets the tone for the season,” McLaughlin said. “We lost a close game to start conference play and struggled to come back from that.”

Sophomore defender Emily Rompola lines up a pass during a 2-0 loss to Olivet on Oct. 28 at Saint Mary's Soccer Field.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Sophomore defender Emily Rompola lines up a pass during a 2-0 loss to Olivet on Oct. 28 at Saint Mary’s Soccer Field.

Results did improve, however, as the Belles earned three wins and a tie in the next five games, thanks in part to two late goals. With two minutes to go against Trine on Oct. 4, sophomore forward Liza Felix finished from twelve yards out to give Saint Mary’s the 1-0 win at home. At Alma on Oct. 14, after the Scots came back from a 2-0 deficit to tie it up at two, sophomore midfielder Jenn Jarmy scored the winner in the final two seconds.

“It was one of the most exciting goals I have ever experienced,” McLaughlin said of Jarmy’s goal. “We let them back in that game during the second half so to get that win was a really good feeling.”

The Belles’ midseason run was not enough to make the conference tournament, though, as two ties and no wins in their final five games put them in seventh place.

“We had hoped to qualify for the conference tournament,” said McLaughlin. “Not meeting that goal was pretty disappointing, but we achieved a lot this year.”

On March 17, Saint Mary’s announced Ken Nuber, former director of coaching for the Junior Irish Soccer Club, had been appointed head coach, replacing Michael Joyce. McLaughlin said she hopes the change can allow the program to grow.

“Next season will bring a lot of changes,” McLaughlin said. “New field, new coach, new team and a lot to prove.

“I think all of us are ready to rise to the occasion. We’re looking forward to the opportunity, and learning from Coach Nuber, who has been a great fit for our program.”

Golf

Saint Mary’s earned one of four spots in the MIAA’s qualifying tournament this spring, but the Belles were unable to earn the conference’s spot in the NCAA tournament.

After six rounds of MIAA play in the fall, Saint Mary’s found itself in third place in the conference standings. The top-four finish meant heading into the spring season, the Belles had the chance to compete in the conference’s automatic qualifying rounds this spring, along with Hope, Olivet and Trine.

“I was happy that our team made the top four within our conference tournament in the fall,” Belles head coach Kim Moore said. “Obviously we are always looking to be in that top spot, but ultimately finishing in that top four gives us an opportunity to play for our NCAA bid in the spring. Unfortunately we had a few setbacks with players being gone a semester so that hurt our performance in the spring, but with those players being gone it gave some of our younger players a chance for experience.”

The Belles finished in fourth, third and fourth in the three rounds of automatic qualifying play, respectively. Hope claimed the conference’s bid to the NCAA tournament after firing a score of 973 over the three-round event, while Saint Mary’s finished with a team score of 1,058. Regardless of the finish, Moore said the future looks bright for the Belles.

“I really enjoyed how this team bonded together,” Moore said. “These girls became the best of friends and that bond will be extremely helpful for next season. A team that enjoys being together plays for each other.

“ … I have no doubt that my players enjoyed getting to know one another and developing the strong relationships that will keep them bonded for life. I think they enjoyed the team trips and bonding they were able to do on those trips. I hope they enjoyed the golf as well.”

Janice Heffernan, the team’s lone senior, led the charge for Saint Mary’s, averaging 84.2 shots per round over her 19 rounds this season.

Softball

This was supposed to be a transition year for Saint Mary’s. Instead, the Belles rallied behind second-year coach Kelli Zache to finish the regular season 22-12, one of the program’s best seasons in a decade.

Zache said her team’s record, up from an even 16-16 mark last year, was not much of a surprise to her.

Freshman Cassie Young fields a fly ball during a 9-6 win against Kalamazoo on April 21 at Saint Mary's Softball Field.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Freshman Cassie Young fields a fly ball during a 9-6 win against Kalamazoo on April 21 at Saint Mary’s Softball Field.

“I wouldn’t say we exceed my expections, because honestly this is where I expected to be,” Zache said. “I’m constantly praising this team.”

The team’s 9-7 conference record was good for fourth in the MIAA standings and qualified it for the conference tournament, the program’s first appearance since 2012.

In the tournament, the Belles lost a heartbreaker in the first round to regular-season champion Trine, 8-7, in nine innings. Facing elimination, Saint Mary’s overpowered Hope, 7-3, and set up a second-round rematch with Trine again. It was the first second-round appearance for the Belles since 2006. In the end, though, the Thunder struck again, 10-2, to end Saint Mary’s season.

Zache said the value of postseason play for her young team was important, despite the outcome.

“It showed promise for us for years to come,” she said. “Half of the team is freshmen, and experience like this is huge for them.”

Of the 16 players returning for next season, nine were freshmen this season, a continuity vital for a team whose coach cited chemistry as her club’s biggest strength.

“The team has really good chemistry, even though they may not be best friends off the field, you couldn’t tell that on the field,” Zache said. “It’s really important to get along with the girls next to you.”

The freshmen trio of shortstop Jamie Young and outfielders Cassie Young and Makenzie Duncan powered most of the team’s offense this season. The Young sisters combined for 32 percent (73 of 225) of the team’s total runs scored and 30 percent (100 of 332) of total hits.  Cassie Young led the team in batting average at a .413 clip, and Jamie Young finished second with a .393 average. Duncan was third on the team at .360 and added five homers, 13 doubles and 28 RBIs.

When asked to describe this year’s team in one word, Zache said “perseverance.”

“We rose to the occasion at the end of the year,” the manager said. “We were up against the best teams, and we kept pushing.”

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

About Tyler Wojciak

Contact Tyler

About Sean Kilmer

Contact Sean

About Benjamin Padanilam

As The Observer's Editor-in-Chief, Ben is a junior in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) who is pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics as well. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

Contact Benjamin

About Daisy Costello

Contact Daisy

About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel

About Michael Ivey

Contact Michael

About Dominic Bush

Contact Dominic