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Strong leadership creates 2 wins

Joe Meixell | Monday, September 10, 2007

Saint Mary’s had a rollercoaster weekend, going 2-2 at the Hiram Invitational. The young Belles squad picked up some valuable experience in the busy tournament.

“We experienced some good success this weekend. I felt that we finally started to gel as a team and that players were really working hard for their teammates,” head coach Julie Schroeder-Biek said. “I made some position changes, and after some initial adjustments, those players really stepped it up and excelled in those positions.”

The tournament got underway Friday afternoon, when the Belles took on Texas Lutheran and fell 3-0 (30-22, 30-24, 30-21).

Sophomore outside hitter Lorna Slupczynski and junior middle blocker Kaela Hellmann had big games in the losing effort. Slupczynski had a team-high 10 kills in the opening match, while Hellmann contributed seven kills and 10 digs.

Saint Mary’s bounced back with a win over Thiel College later that night. Thiel put up a tough fight, but the Belles were able to pull out the victory in five games (29-31, 30-16, 17-30, 30-16, 17-15).

The Belles had to fight off a match point at 14-13 in game five before they could claim the win over the Tomcats. Slupczynski posted 17 kills and a .452 hitting percentage to lead the Belles offensive. Hellmann and junior middle blocker Cathy Kurczak both posted double figures in kills with 14 and 11, respectively. Senior setter Amanda David contributed to the win with an impressive 48 assists.

The Belles started day two of the Hiram Invitational with a match against Geneva College. The team won the match in four games 3-1, (30-22, 25-30, 30-27, 30-22).

In the opening match, the Belles’ team leaders stepped up again. Slupczynski had 15 kills and 10 digs while Hellman added 11 kills and 14 digs in the win. Freshman middle blocker Andrea Sasgen stepped up with three service aces to assist in the win.

The Belles finished their weekend against M.I.T., and fell in five games 3-2, (29-31, 30-23, 30-25, 21-30, 15-13).

The final match of the invitational was hard fought by the Belles. Slupczynski led the pack with another double-double, 17 kills and18 digs. She was named to the Hiram College Invitational All Tournament team.

The Belles now look forward to the week ahead. Saint Mary’s will take on conference foe Olivet Tuesday, for their first home match of the season. They will play another conference competitor, Alma, on Thursday also at home.

The Belles and Schroeder-Biek are ready to be home.

“Being on the road so much these past two weeks is tough,” Schroeder-Biek said. “We are anxious for the home crowd to see us play.”