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SMC BASKETBALL: Flying Dutch will be a challenge for Belles

Joe Meixell | Friday, February 4, 2005

Coming off two disappointing losses, things do not get any easier for Saint Mary’s on Saturday. The Belles take on perennial MIAA power Hope College at the Angela Athletic Center at 3 p.m.

Saint Mary’s has struggled in its last two games against two of the best teams the conference has to offer. On Jan. 26, the Belles fell at home to first-place Albion 73-59. On Wednes-day, Saint Mary’s got down early at Calvin and never recovered, losing 62-46.

Coach Suzanne Bellina believes that a lack of on-court chemistry is at the root of her team’s recent problems.

“We haven’t been connected as a team as much as we need to be out there on the court,” Bellina said. “The effort is there, but it’s just not clicking right now.”

The Belles better hope to get things straightened out in a hurry. Hope has won four of the last five MIAA conference titles, and the team has been nothing short of dominant this season.

Coming into the game, the Flying Dutch have rattled off 11 straight wins, and sit atop the conference in a tie for first place with Albion. The team ranks second in the MIAA in scoring, averaging 74 points per contest. Hope also tops the conference in team defense, limiting opponents to only 53.8 points per game. In their last game, the Flying Dutch smoked Adrian by 40 points.

“They are very athletic and always very deep,” Bellina said of Hope. “They also can throw a lot of different looks at you defensively.”

However, Saint Mary’s does have some reasons for optimism heading into the game. Senior guard Katie Boyce will return to the lineup well ahead of schedule. Boyce had been sidelined for the past six games with a torn tendon in her foot.

“I am definitely playing on Saturday,” Boyce said. “[The injury] takes six weeks to heal. I was out for three, and I am basically going to come back and play through it for now.”

Last year’s MIAA Defensive Player of the Year, Boyce will provide a boost for Saint Mary’s with her quickness and tireless defensive effort. Her comeback also lends some much needed depth to the recently thin Belles rotation.

Saint Mary’s takes further encouragement from its last meeting with the Flying Dutch. Although the Belles did lose to Hope by 14 points on Jan. 8, the game was on the road and fairly competitive. The Belles feel that the outcome could very well be different on Saturday.

“They are top in the conference right now. I think it raises our level of play when we play them. You step it up to the next level. This is the second time that we are playing them. I think we know what to expect. We have a good chance,” Boyce said.

Saint Mary’s realizes how important a victory over Hope would be at this point in the season, as the Belles continue to pursue the coveted fourth spot in the conference and look towards the tournament.

“A win would be huge. It would give us some confidence,” Bellina said. “If we want to make some noise in the tourney, we need to learn how to win against these top teams.”

Boyce sees Saturday’s game as an opportunity to make a statement about the Saint Mary’s program.

“It would kind of seal the deal for what we have been trying to do as the senior class in getting more respect for Saint Mary’s around the conference,” Boyce said.