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Team’s morning loss fuels afternoon victory

Michael Blasco | Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saint Mary’s split its weekend matches against a pair of conference opponents, falling to No. 16 Calvin in straight sets Saturday morning (25-14, 25-13, 25-12) before rebounding against Adrian (25-22, 25-23, 29-27) that afternoon.

The Belles (11-5, 4-3 MIAA) remain in fourth place in the conference after the MIAA mini-tournament at Calvin’s Huizenga Center in Grand Rapids, Mich.

After the blowout loss in the morning, Saint Mary’s rallied to scrape out three tough sets in the late match, playing off the emotion and teamwork that Belles coach Julie Schroeder-Biek has emphasized throughout the season.

“More than anything else I want this team to believe in themselves,” Schroeder-Biek said. “They have a lot of ability. If they can come together as a team and play as one cohesive unit, we will be in position to be a top team in the league standings.”

In the 11 a.m. match, the Knights (11-4, 5-2 MIAA) romped over the Belles in straight sets, relying on smothering defense to keep Saint Mary’s in check. Calvin posted six blocks on the match while holding the Belles to a .071 attacking percentage.

Junior hitter Lorna Slupczynski and senior hitter Kaela Hellmann both had seven kills to lead Saint Mary’s. Sophomore defensive specialist Ellen Huelsmann had a team-high 13 digs in the loss.

The Belles bounced back in the afternoon match against the Bulldogs, who had dropped Saint Mary’s in straight sets in a meeting earlier this season.

The Belles ground out the win with a workman-like effort, posting a .215 attacking percentage while holding Adrian to .179 in a defensive struggle. Slupczynski lead the squad with 20 kills, while Huelsmann spearheaded the defensive effort with 20 digs. Hellmann contributed with eight kills and 14 digs of her own, while sophomore setter Dani Brink turned in a solid all-around game with four kills in 11 attempts, 38 assists, eight digs and two service aces.

The weekend marked another set of solid games by Slupczynski, who leads the team with three kills per game while adding 2.91 digs per game, third on the squad. She has also collected All-Tournament honors at both of the tournaments in which she has competed.

“Lorna is putting together a fine career at Saint Mary’s,” Schroeder-Biek said. “Her teammates really feed off her energy and on-court play from the outside hitter position. The opponents know she is one of our stronger players and Lorna is going to have to continue to raise her game.”

The Belles will host Trine University on Wednesday at 7 p.m.