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SMC VOLLEYBALL: Belles struggle as three-match winning streak is snapped

Ryan Kiefer | Monday, September 26, 2005

Saint Mary’s faced some growing pains Saturday at the Saint Mary’s triangular.

The Belles dropped matches to Calvin and Alma, both in three straight games.

The losses ended a three-match winning streak and left the Belles (7-9, 1-4) in eighth place in the MIAA.

The Belles were looking to assert themselves among the MIAA elite after last year’s six-win campaign.

Despite the losses, coach Julie Schroeder-Biek was encouraged by her team’s play.

“We just didn’t have the right mentality to beat those teams today,” she said.

“I’m excited by our play, though. We have nothing to shy away from with the way we played today.”

The Belles lost to Calvin in the morning by a 30-16, 30-28, 30-23 score.

The Knights dictated play early, using a strong attack game to win nine of the match’s first 13 points.

Saint Mary’s fought back to cut the lead to 18-14, but a 10-1 Calvin run put the game out of reach.

Calvin continually set up easy kills, as the Knights had a 35-percent hitting percentage over the course of the match.

Schroeder-Biek thought this stat reflected some subpar blocking by the Belles.

“I thought the timing on our blocks was off,” she said. “We couldn’t get an effective block set up.”

The Belles played a strong second game against Calvin, using tough defense to slow the Knight attack.

After falling behind 13-7, the Belles pieced together a 7-0 run behind Kristen Playko, who had a team-high 13 kills in the match.

The Belles relinquished the lead with the score 17-16, but fought back to go in front 27-26.

Saint Mary’s could not hold off a determined Calvin squad, who won four of the final five points to take the game.

Schroeder-Biek was pleased with the effort in the second game, but emphasized the need to finish each game.

“We drove in the second game,” she said. “We played well in spurts, but we need to play a more complete game from point one to thirty.”

Saint Mary’s looked poised to force a fourth game with the score tied at 21 in the third, but five quick Knight points sealed the Belles’ fate.

The Belles looked to rebound in the afternoon match against Alma.

The Scots, fresh off a win against Calvin, made it a perfect 2-0 day by defeating the Belles, 30-21, 30-28, 31-29.

Saint Mary’s competed well against the taller Alma team, which used its height advantage to record 70 kills to the Belles’ 44.

Erin Fralick led Alma with 19 kills, hitting 68-percent in the match.

Schroeder-Biek was pleased with her team’s drive in the afternoon match.

“We wanted to win that match,” she said.

“We had some lopsided matchups, but we adjusted well and played very well.”

After letting the Scots break away in the first game, the Belles improved their passing and communication to keep Alma close in games two and three.

Playko, Shelly Bender and Michelle Turley all had more than 10 kills to lead the Belles attack.

Anne Cusack had a match-high 25 digs to anchor the Saint Mary’s defense.

The Belles will look to start a new winning streak and climb up the MIAA standings when they face Tri-State University Tuesday.

Despite the two losses, Schroeder-Biek feels her team can compete with the top teams in the MIAA.

“We are a good team, and we have to prove that by beating other good teams,” she said.

“We can perform at their level. I’m excited for the challenge those teams present.”