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SMC Volleyball: Belles will face No. 5 Adrian in MIAA tourney

Michael Blasco | Tuesday, November 4, 2008

After clinching fourth place in the conference last week, Saint Mary’s will take on No. 5 seed Adrian in the first round of the MIAA Tournament tonight at home. With a win, Saint Mary’s (18-10, 9-7 MIAA) would face either No. 1 Hope (25-6, 15-1) or No. 8 Trine (9-19, 4-12) in the semifinals Friday.

The Belles have 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 in the month. Each match, despite the straight-set outcomes, were grinding, defensive battles that favored the team that made the fewest offensive mistakes.

Saint Mary’s coach Julie Schroeder-Biek praised her team’s ability to rebound from early losses, citing the Belles’ victory over Adrian in late September as a turning point in the season.

“Our approach was just to keep going forward and finishing strong,” Schroeder-Biek said. “I have been incredibly proud of my team for how well they have responded to teams that have defeated us [early in the season] – Adrian and Alma – and turning around to defeat them.”

Saint Mary’s enters tonight as winners of six of its past nine matches, finishing fourth in the MIAA on the back of suffocating defense and an opportunistic offense. The Belles’ record was an improvement over last season’s 6-10 mark in league play (fifth place) and 12-17 overall, and the squad demonstrated giant leaps in consistency and team effort.

Standout junior hitter Lorna Slupczynski paced the offense with a team-high 3.14 kills per game, while freshman setter Danielle Brink added a .323 attacking percentage and 8.25 assists per game, both team highs. Sophomore defensive specialist Meghann Rose led the team with 4.48 digs per game.

The Bulldogs finished the season at .500 in the conference (8-8) and 14-15 overall. Adrian plays a similar game as Saint Mary’s, relying on smothering defense to offset a pedestrian offset that posted a .164 attacking percentage. Senior hitter Jenny Carlson leads the Bulldogs’ offense with 3.37 kills per game, while senior defense specialist Samantha Mercy added 5.04 digs per game, first on the squad.

The game starts at 7 p.m