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SMC Soccer: Belles kick off MIAA season against Alma

Dan Murphy | Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Belles will finally join the party.

Saint Mary’s will begin its 2006 MIAA conference schedule this afternoon against Alma College. The Belles will be the last member of the nine-team conference to start – most teams began league play Thursday.

So far, Saint Mary’s has accumulated a 1-5 record and it is 0-2 against opponents in the MIAA. The Belles lost to Calvin and Albion earlier in the year, but neither game counted towards the teams’ conference records.

This year will be the first time the MIAA will hold a tournament to decide its champion at the end of the season. The conference has existed since 1989, but until this point the first-place finisher was decided from regular season wins.

Saint Mary’s and its senior leaders are confident going into this year’s schedule that they will be able to compete with everyone in the MIAA and make a run at the conference title at season’s end.

“I feel that the team is going to do very well this year,” senior goalkeeper Nicole Leach said Sept. 6. “We hope to at least finish within the top three teams of our conference.”

Despite the slow start, the senior corps is still confident that they will be able to improve as a unit and challenge anyone they face.

“Against Alma we start with a clean slate,” senior captain Colleen Courtney said. “The first six games haven’t gone exactly as planned, but that does not matter in the long run.”

Alma, who has lost its last three games, comes into the contest with a 2-6 overall record. The Scots lost their first conference game this season 2-1 in overtime against Concordia College.

Junior Kelly Walsh, who leads Alma with four goals on the year, had the lone goal late in the second half.

The Scot offense spreads the ball around effectively, with five different forwards combining for their 12 goals. In comparison, sisters Ashley and Lauren Hinton have all but one goal for the Belles this year. Senior Caroline Stancukas has the other tally for Saint Mary’s.

The team will have to produce a little more offense in order to compete with Alma and the rest of the MIAA. In the Belles last game, they were only able to get two shots on net in a 4-0 loss to Illinois Wesleyan Sunday.

Saint Mary’s coach Caryn Mackenzie installed a new offense for the game, but the team struggled to adjust which allowed Illinois Wesleyan to get out to an early lead. The team is still unsure whether it will stick with the new offense or return to its old style.