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SMC SOCCER: Belles post 1-1-1 fall break mark, eye records

Kyle Cassily | Tuesday, October 25, 2005

On pace to set a school record in conference wins and to secure the highest conference finish ever after a solid 1-1-1 showing in its last three games, the Saint Mary’s soccer team has no intention of letting these accolades slip out of its grasp.

The Belles kicked off their fall break by trouncing Alma College 5-0 at home, which was followed by a tough 1-1 tie on the road at Olivet.

The week’s finale came against the MIAA’s best, Calvin, and the women nearly pulled off an enormous upset before falling 1-0.

Saint Mary’s has never finished the season with ten conference wins or in third-place or higher MIAA standing in its history.

But with three games left to play and a 7-5-1 conference record, it can reach ten wins and secure the third-place spot by winning out.

“Overall, as a team we are doing some really good things right now, despite going 1-1-1 last week,” Belles coach Caryn Mackenzie said. “We are playing some really good soccer, even though that doesn’t always show up on the scoreboard.”

Alma could not withstand the quick Belle’s attack and gave up two goals before the end of the first half.

Freshmen Lauren Hinton and Mandy Thomson tallied the two scores and sparked numerous other offensive opportunities against the over-matched Alma defenders.

“It started out fairly competitive, then we basically just took over,” Mackenzie said. “We just took it to them, and they were never in the game.”

Hinton struck again shortly into the second frame and was followed by goals from Sarah DuBree and Carrie Orr to put the game out of Alma’s reach at 5-0.

The Belles’ defense held strong throughout with help from Shannon Culbertson, Maura Schoen, Mary Esch and goalkeepers Laura Heline and Nicole Leach.

The Belles traveled to Olivet College next and squared off in a title match-worthy MIAA heavyweight bout ending in a 1-1 tie.

The game remained a scoreless fight until the 83rd minute of regulation. The Comets snuck a squeaker past Heline to take the 1-0 lead, but the Belles refused to quit.

They rallied back with a flurry of punches deep into Comet territory and managed to light the lamp with under three minutes left to play. Lauren Hinton tied the game at 1-1 on a well-executed shot.

Hinton got the ball on the top left of the 18-foot line and ripped off a shot left-footed. The Comet goalkeeper was caught off-angle, but managed to tip the ball as it came across the net towards the right post. The tip came too late, however, and Hinton earned the tally.

“She’s just been really steady and consistent for us in terms of putting the ball in back of net,” Mackenzie said of Hinton. “For a freshman, she’s poised, she’s composed and she comes to play every game. She is very intelligent up top, and she really plays well off the ball. She’s found her way through and behind defenses.”

The two teams battled through an overtime period without success, and the game finished knotted at 1-1.

“The tie was disappointing,” Mackenzie said. “At least on one level, though, we were down by a goal and answered with three minutes left, so that’s something to feel good about, despite we felt we should have won the game.”

Calvin came onto the Belles’ campus for Saturday’s game after scoring 34 goals in its last three games, against Adrian, Tri-State and Kalamazoo College.

With that in mind, Saint Mary’s favored a defense-heavy approach to stop the intimidating Knight’s attack.

The lone goal came ten minutes into the second half and was enough to put the Belles away 1-0. Saint Mary’s defense proved equal to the task and was led by an outstanding performance in net by Heline, who made 19 saves in the game.

“She had a great game. Honestly, she took charge in the back, she was constantly talking and supporting her teammates,” Mackenzie said. “She stayed focused and in spite of the fact that one goal got in, she played a great game.”

Calvin benefited from the Belles’ misfortune as well. Attacker Hinton went down in the second half when she was hit with a ball in the face and could not return.

To compensate, they shifted an extra attacker up top.

Despite several valiant attempts, the Belles attack could not capitalize against a defense that has allowed only one goal in MIAA play all season.

“When you are playing such a defense-minded game, you only get that handful of chances, and you don’t always execute,” Mackenzie said “I’m proud of our effort and staying committed to our game plan. We were extremely competitive.”

The Belles will next go into action on Wednesday at Adrian College.