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SMC VOLLEYBALL: Belles given golden MIAA opportunity

Ryan Kiefer | Thursday, October 27, 2005

Saint Mary’s has a chance to secure its highest finish in the MIAA since 1999 when it takes the court at Albion College tonight.

The Belles currently have sole possession of fifth place in the conference with a 5-10 conference record. Three teams, among them Albion, are tied for sixth place at 4-11.

A win tonight would guarantee them fifth place and give them the No. 5 seed in next week’s MIAA tournament.

Tonight’s match marks the end of the regular season for the Belles. It also gives them their final opportunity to improve upon last year’s conference record of 5-11.

Saint Mary’s enters the match following a thrilling five-game win over Kalamazoo Tuesday. After winning the first two games, the Belles overcame some inconsistent play in the third and fourth games to seal a crucial win in the fifth.

The Belles have looked forward to tonight’s match with Albion since they suffered a five-game loss at the hands of the Britons on Oct. 8.

Belles coach Julie Schroeder-Biek felt that the Belles may have been thinking about tonight’s match entering Tuesday’s battle with Kalamazoo.

“I think we were looking ahead a bit [earlier this week],” Schroeder-Biek said. “That is one of the worst mistakes you can make in athletics. We were fortunate to come out with that win [against Kalamazoo].”

Unfortunately for the Belles, they will play tonight without Amanda David, one of the stars from the earlier match against Albion. The Saint Mary’s setter broke her hand last week in a match against Calvin and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season.

The Belles showed resiliency as they bounced back from David’s injury to capture two out of three matches in the last week.

Schroeder-Biek attributed her team’s success to excellent teamwork and confidence and feels these areas will be crucial for the Belles’ tonight.

“The most important thing for us is playing our game and playing confident,” Schroeder-Biek said. “When something bad happens, we can’t get down. We have to know we are good enough that we can come back from that.”

Since defeating the Belles nearly three weeks ago, Albion has struggled, losing five straight conference matches. The Britons’ most recent defeat came at the hands of Hope College in three games Tuesday.

Despite Albion’s recent struggles, they still present a considerable challenge to the Belles.

Possessing a potent offense led by Sarah Slamer who was named MIAA player of the week for the first week of October, Albion averages 3.93 kills per game, fifth in the MIAA. Slamer recorded a match-high 29 kills against the Belles in the teams’ first meeting.

Saint Mary’s will be using a new defensive scheme against Slamer and the Britons tonight. This adjustment was implemented by Schroeder-Biek following David’s injury and the resulting position changes that stemmed from it.

Schroeder-Biek realized the opportunity ahead of her team and felt the Belles were ready to seize it.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to finish in fifth place,” she said. “We have been looking forward to the Albion match, and we are excited about the challenge they present.”