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SMC VOLLEYBALL: Belles host talented, tough Pilots

Ryan Kiefer | Friday, September 30, 2005

The Saint Mary’s volleyball team will see something they haven’t seen all season when they host Bethel College Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Angela Athletic Center – scholarship athletes.

While the Belles are a Division III school that is permitted to award scholarship money on a need-only basis, the Pilots are members of the NAIA, an organization of smaller colleges that allows schools to give athletic scholarships.

Thus, Bethel has been able to compile a group of talented players, and while the NAIA competition is less than that of the NCAA, the Pilots’ 15-2 record speaks to their success this season.

Belles coach Julie Schroeder-Biek acknowledged the Pilots’ talent.

“They are a scholarship team and they are good,” she said. “There’s always been a good rivalry between Bethel and Saint Mary’s. We expect strong competition Saturday.”

Saint Mary’s enters the match with an 8-9 record including 2-4 in the MIAA. They are coming off a win over Tri-State on Tuesday, a match that went five games despite the Belles’ winning the first two.

The Belles just completed one of the toughest portions of their schedule, playing five matches in eight days. After compiling a 3-2 record during that stretch, Schroeder-Biek gave the Belles a much-deserved day off Wednesday.

“We had a few nagging injuries that needed some rest,” she said. “One day won’t heal all of the injuries, but the time off can only help us. It’s nice to have a day to yourself.”

Saint Mary’s took to the practice court Thursday to tweak their defense. Schroeder-Biek hesitated to emphasize any particular aspect of her team’s play during practice for fear that another area may become weaker. She continued to drive her team to play a solid all-around game.

Schroeder-Biek also stressed the importance of mental toughness and drive in light of the lapses that occurred in games three and four Tuesday.

“They know it should have been finished in three,” she said. “We just need to play the entire game from start to finish.”

The Belles have hit the halfway point of their season. Their focus in the second half will be on picking apart MIAA opponents.

The Belles have seen all but two MIAA teams already this season.

Despite the inconsistent play Tuesday, Schroeder-Biek feels her team is focused and ready to make a second-half push.

“I’m very happy that they still have very high goals for themselves at this point in the season,” she said.

“They know what they are capable of.”

The Belles have faced a difficult schedule this year that included ranked teams Elmhurst and Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the first two matches of the year.