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SMC Soccer: Belles to take on Illinois Wesleyan

Dan Murphy | Friday, September 22, 2006

A fired up Saint Mary’s squad will travel to Illinois Wesleyan this weekend for one final tune-up before beginning conference play.

The Belles (1-4) are coming off the most one-sided loss of their season so far to the Calvin Knights – a 6-1 blowout last Tuesday.

Earlier in the season, Calvin also came from behind to beat Illinois Wesleyan with two second-half goals Sept. 2. The loss dropped the Titans to 1-1, but they have since recovered, winning three of their next five games.

“The score against Calvin does not accurately reflect how I believe we played together as a team, and I expect the entire team to come out hard against Illinois Wesleyan this Sunday,” senior Caroline Stancukas said.

The young defense will need to compete at full speed in order to shut down the Titan offense and give senior captain and goalkeeper Laura Heline assistance in the backfield. Heline made nine tough saves against Calvin as she was constantly peppered with quality shots from the Knights’ top scorers.

Illinois Wesleyan will again test the Belles’ defense. The Titans have outshot opponents 102-68 through their first seven games this season. Senior Lyndsay O’Brien leads a spread offense with three goals and two assists.

“Our goalkeeper, Laura Heline, is consistently one of our strongest players and I know she will come out Sunday with the intention of winning,” Stancukas said. “However, soccer is not a one-woman show.

“If one player has a big game, it is merely a reflection of the team and how well the team connects with one another.”

Saint Mary’s will look to continue to improve that essential team chemistry in their last warm up before official MIAA play begins Tuesday. The young team has been working since August to find the right connections.

On offense the Belles’ goal is to push the ball forward as much as possible in order to put pressure on the Titan defense early and often. Sophomore Lauren Hinton leads Saint Mary’s in scoring with five goals while senior Ashley Hinton has also added three goals and two assists.

The duo leads the team on offense for the second straight year, but can expect help from other underclassmen as they mature.

“With the amount of talent we possess in every area on the field, there is no telling where our goals will come from,” said Stancukas, who also has one goal this season.