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SMC Volleyball: Belles open conference play

Samantha Leonard | Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Several days after a fourth-place finish in its season opening tournament, Saint Mary’s begins conference play tonight with a showdown at Adrian at 7 p.m.

The Bulldogs (3-1) are coming off a second-place finish in the Mount Union tournament last weekend. Saint Mary’s enters the matchup 1-2, after finishing fourth in the Monmouth College tournament Saturday.

“Adrian is a good team, and they will have a lot of returning players and strong attackers,” Belles coach Julie Schroeder-Biek said. “Their veteran setter graduated, but they will have a lot of experienced players on the court.”

Although the Bulldogs are more experienced, Schroeder-Biek feels her team is prepared for the challenge.

“We will be working on the one thing that concerned me in the [Monmouth] tournament: our defensive positioning,” she said. “We will need to have our floor defenders in the right position early and ready to defend against Adrian’s attack.”

The most important step in counteracting Adrian’s strong attack is the play of Saint Mary’s seniors.

Setter Amanda David averaged 10.39 assists per game – the second best in the MIAA – during her second full season at that position.

Defensive specialist Marisa Gross started more than 100 games last season and finished with an average of 2.36 digs per game.

“Both [seniors] are such strong players with great court presence and winning spirits,” Schroeder-Biek said. “They will be great leaders on the court.” 

Although she will rely heavily on her seniors, Schroeder-Biek has made some changes with her upperclassmen this season. Junior blocker Cathy Kurczak will be starting at right-side blocker instead of middle hitter, where she played last season.  

“We are positioning [Kurczak] on the right side to strengthen our blocking game,” Schroeder-Biek said. “She did a great job out there this past weekend as both a blocker and an attacker.”

Taking Kurczak’s place at starting middle hitter will be junior Kaela Hellmann.

Underclassmen fill out the rest of the Belles starting six. Sophomore outside attacker Lorna Slupczynski looks to continue to improve after winning the MIAA freshmen of the year award in 2006.

“She is a strong all around player – very talented and smart – she really sees the court well,” Schroeder-Biek said.

Rounding up the starting lineup are freshman middle hitter Andrea Sasgen and outside attacker Jacee Watson.