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SMC Volleyball: Belles’ toughest challenge yet is final six games on road

Ryan Kiefer | Friday, October 14, 2005

Senior night usually signifies the end of the season.

Not so for the Saint Mary’s volleyball team.

Following a four-game loss to Adrian College on Tuesday’s senior night, the Belles find themselves with six games remaining on the schedule, all on the road.

Belles coach Julie Schroeder-Biek said earlier this season that she feels her team is better on the road because it faces fewer distractions. Her theory will be put to the test Saturday when the final stretch begins with a tough match at Alma College. The Scots are in second place in the MIAA and own an 8-3 conference. They are one of the only teams that has threatened undefeated Hope in the conference this year. Alma lost a five-game decision to Hope earlier this season.

Alma enters the match following a four-game loss to Calvin earlier this week. The Scots will be looking to rebound against a Saint Mary’s team they defeated in three games earlier this season.

The Belles enter the game with confidence, knowing the loss to Alma was much closer that it seemed. The Belles lost the final two games of that match by scores of 30-28 and 31-29 and were a few points from extending, or even winning, that match.

Saint Mary’s faced a number of matchup problems in the first game as the Scots are a much taller team than the Belles. The Belles allowed three Alma players to record 15 or more kills in the first contest. To combat these problems Saturday, the Belles will have to play a solid defensive game. Schroeder-Biek thinks her team is capable this type of defensive effort.

“We’re getting closer and closer to becoming a really good defensive team,” she said. “With a little more hustle and improvement we’ll be there.”

Libero Anne Cusack will anchor the Belles defense. The junior leads the conference, averaging 5.83 kills per game.

Senior middle hitter Talia Matury-Vacaro will also help the Belles’ net defense. Matury-Vacaro saw limited action in the teams’ first meeting due to injury. Now healthy, the senior will provide crucial blocking in the middle of the Belles’ defense.

Schroeder-Biek stressed the importance of having one of her two seniors back in the lineup.

“It’s really nice to have Talia back,” she said. “Now we just have to get her in with the right mix of players. We’re still getting used to having her as a part of our lineup.”

The Belles enter the toughest part of their schedule with a 9-13 record, 3-7 in the MIAA, good enough for sixth place in the conference. If the Belles are to move up in the standings, they will need to pull off some upsets. Saint Mary’s faces the top three teams in the conference – Hope, Alma and Calvin – over the course of its next four matches.

Despite the tough stretch ahead, Schroeder-Biek said her team’s confidence was high.

“We’re still very excited about our goals and we think we can finish the season strong,” she said.