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SMC Volleyball: Belles out in MIAA’s first round

Michael Blasco | Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Saint Mary’s season ended Tuesday night with a first-round loss to Adrian in the MIAA Tournament, dropping the match in four sets to the Bulldogs, 21-25, 25-22, 25-21, and 25-19.

The loss capped a 9-7 MIAA season for the Belles, who went 18-11 overall.

The Belles’ regular-season MIAA record had earned them the No. 4 seed and first-round home court advantage against No. 5 Adrian, who finished 8-8 in the conference and 15-15 overall.

The Belles previously clashed with the Bulldogs twice this season, with each team picking up a victory in straight sets. While Adrian’s defense shut down Saint Mary’s in a home match on Sept. 2, the Belles scratched out a tough victory in an MIAA mini-tournament later that month. Each match, despite the straight-set outcomes, were grinding, defensive battles that favored the team that made the fewest offensive mistakes.

Tuesday night’s match followed suit, with the teams combining for 14 blocks and 163 digs in four closely-fought sets. In the end, Adrian was able to capitalize on errors from the Saint Mary’s squad, while the Belles struggled late in each set and squandered several leads.

In the first set, the Belles came out of the gate forcefully and established a 14-7 lead at one point. The Bulldogs took advantage of Saint Mary’s miscues while getting some key kills to come back and tie the score at 19-19 before a kill by sophomore hitter Jacee Watson and two more by senior hitter Kaela Hellmann provided the Belles some breathing room. Saint Mary’s closed out the set 25-21 to gain the 1-0 advantage.

In the second and third sets, both teams traded points in the early going and were unable to gain an early lead. In the second set, Adrian’s defense, a strength all season long, clamped down in the late going to seal a 25-22 victory. In the third set, the Belles gained an early edge before mistakes allowed the Bulldogs to rebound and seize a 25-21 victory.

The Saint Mary’s offense sputtered throughout much of the fourth set, and several late errors sealed their fate as Adrian claimed a 25-19 victory, clinching the match.

Hellmann led the Belles offensively and defensively with a .318 attacking percentage and 18 kills alongside 25 digs and 1.5 blocks. Sophomore defensive specialist Meghann Rose added 21 digs and four service aces. Junior setter Liana Rohr kept the offense running with 43 assists in the absence of the regular setter, freshman Danielle Brink.

Quiet throughout the match was hitter Lorna Slupczynski; the junior provided the spark for Saint Mary’s all through the season, leading the team in kills while providing 2.82 digs per game. Slupczynski finished the night with 10 kills against seven errors in 36 attempts for a .083 attacking percentage.