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SMC VOLLEYBALL: Alba sweeps team in MIAA quarterfinals

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, November 2, 2005

If the goal of a team is to play its best at the end of the season, the Saint Mary’s volleyball team achieved its season goal Tuesday.

Despite losing 30-25, 30-25, 30-23 in a season-ending match in the MIAA quarterfinals to Alma, the Belles played with determination and heart, characteristics that marked the team’s play all season.

“It was the best we’ve played against Alma,” Belles coach Julie Schroeder-Biek said. “Even their coach said that every one of our players played to win out there tonight.”

The Belles entered the match with Kristen Playko and Shelly Bender playing setter. Neither had set in a match this season, but an injury to regular setter Amanda David and a test conflict for replacement Michelle Turley forced Playko and Bender into the position. Both Playko and Bender had been two of the Belles biggest hitters entering Tuesday’s match, ranking first and third, respectively, in kills on the team. The two were forced to bear the burden of passing and hitting Tuesday and did so with success.

“They were switching modes immediately,” Schroeder-Biek said. “They really adjusted well.”

Playko notched 12 kills on a season-high .423 hitting percentage and also added 15 assists. Bender recorded five kills and 11 assists.

Schroeder-Biek was proud of her entire team for responding with energy and drive amidst the changes at setter.

“We played well as a team,” she said. “We were vocal and unified … It would have been easy for us to use the adversity as an excuse, but the team didn’t. They gave everything they had.”

The loss was Saint Mary’s third to Alma this season, all in three games.

The Belles knew from previous meetings that they would have to combat a powerful Alma offense with solid, scrappy defense, and they did just that. Anne Cusack, the MIAA leader in digs per game, recorded 22 digs Tuesday. Kaela Hellmann also added 15 digs to solidify the defense.

Schroeder-Biek was thrilled to see her team’s intensity at its highest level of the season.

“That’s the most everyone on the court has competed all season,” she said. “Earlier it was four or five players that brought intensity and really played to win. Tonight, everyone gave everything they had, they fed off each other and played the best they’ve played all season.”

The Belles finished the season with an 11-19 record, 5-12 in the MIAA. Saint Mary’s nearly doubled its win total of six from last season and finished tied for fifth in the conference, two places higher than last season.

Entering the season, Schroeder-Biek set a goal for her team to host an MIAA playoff game by finishing fourth or higher. The Belles fell one place short. Schroeder-Biek deemed the season a success, especially considering Saint Mary’s did not have any setting experience on its roster entering the year.

“We were definitely down in the setter position coming in, but we had so much talent we thought we could host for MIAA,” she said. “Even though we fell one place short, I’m proud of how we finished up. We need to carry this momentum into next season.”