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Belles hoping to start another winning streak with victory

Kyle Cassily | Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Adrian College may dwell in the cellar of the MIAA, but the Belles refuse to blow off the Bulldogs as a guaranteed win.

The Saint Mary’s soccer team (3-2 MIAA, 4-4 overall) demolished the Bulldogs in two games last year with a 8-0 victory at home and a 3-0 win at Adrian. Adrian currently resides in second-to-last in the MIAA standings with a 1-4 league record, 2-6 overall.

The Belles are eager to take to their home field and spark another winning streak as they enter a three-game stretch against bottom-dwellers Adrian, last place Tri-State University and third-to-last place Kalamazoo College. The Belles’ previous streak ended at three victories in a row with last Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at the hands of MIAA leader, Calvin College.

The defeat has not slowed down a Belles team that has worked in practice early this week on touch drills. Saint Mary’s scrimmaged intensively and worked on keepaway drills to improve their ball control and quality of possessions.

Belles senior defender Shannon Culbertson believes the team needs to practice ball-control strategies.

“We need to work on distributing [the ball] out to the flanks, playing at an angle, not playing straight up and down the field,” she said.

Offense has not been a problem of late for a group of attackers and midfielders that posted seven goals in three games, but it failed to find the back of the net against a tough Calvin defense. A rejuvenated Belles attack will try to take it to Adrian’s weak defense. Adrian has allowed 30 goals on the season, 16 of which have come in the last four games.

“Our passing is really something,” Culbertson said of her team’s strengths. “We have composure on the field. We are relaxed and play smart.”

That composure will play a large part in helping the Belles avoid playing down to their opponent’s level. Subpar play against subpar teams has been the bane of many a contender, a problem the Belles are actively seeking to avoid.

“[Belles’ coach Caryn Mackenzie] is telling us you have to have respect for everyone that comes on your field, because anyone can come do the unexpected,” Culbertson said. “We’re not going to take a team too lightly.”

The mental aspect of the game has been an integral part of Mackenzie’s coaching philosophy thus far this year. She has focused on generating a high level of energy on the field with her team and to never let down, no matter if they are down by a large margin on the road or dominating at home.

“We know that [Calvin] was a really talented team,” Culbertson said. “We got really pumped for Saturday, and I think we can really continue that for [the game against Adrian]. We are starting to get in the groove a bit. Even though we lost on Saturday, we were not defeated.”