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SMC Softball: Belles head south for 10 games in Florida

Rebecca Slinger | Thursday, March 8, 2007

Coming off last year’s 28-13 mark, Saint Mary’s travels to Florida next week with high expectations as they begin their season with a 10-game stretch in the Sunshine State.Led by second-year coach Erin Sullivan, the Belles head to Ft. Myers, Fla., where they will play 10 games from March 11-17. Sullivan led the team to unprecedented heights last season, reaching the conference tournament for the first time and earning a school-record 28 wins.The Belles hope to rekindle their winning ways in Florida, where they face off against Montclair State, Mount Ida, Curry, Nichols, New England, Ohio Wesleyan, Illinois College (2-1), Blackburn (2-2), North Park and Transylvania (3-1).Only three of the week’s opponents have games under their belts this season. Sullivan said her lineups will be fluid throughout the week to see what works for the Belles, whose practice time has been limited due to recent weather.”We want to find the team on the field that will be most competitive,” Sullivan said. “It’s tough because we haven’t been outside … but the adjustment’s not that difficult.”After spring break, the Belles will try to improve upon their 2006 conference record (11-5) and qualify for the conference and regional tournaments.In addition to the team’s larger ambitions, each team member has set individual goals, “We’re a different team,” Sullivan said. “Our goal isn’t to necessarily be better than we were last year, but we do want to achieve some personal goals to have a better season.”The experienced team of nine upperclassmen will add three freshmen to the team and one sophomore, volleyball standout Cathy Kurczak, who did not play last season.Three returning Belles – Kristen Amram, Sarah Miesle and Ashley Fusaro – earned first or second-team MIAA accolades in 2006. Pitcher Amram became the Belles’ first MIAA MVP, after she went 6-1 with a 0.97 ERA in league play as a freshman. Calli Davidson also earned honorable mention honors last year.Seniors Miesle and Laura Heline hope to return to the MIAA championship this year after winning the title in 2004 during Sullivan’s senior season as a player.”Two of them have won the conference tournament before so they know what it takes to get there,” Sullivan said. “They want to go out with some kind of record.” After their demanding Fort Myers schedule, the Belles will hit the beach before returning to school and starting their home season March 25 against Rose-Hulman.