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SMC Basketball: Belles’ season sets record heights

Michael Blasco | Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Belles enjoyed their greatest season in program history, coming up just short in their bid to capture the MIAA title in a tough loss in the conference finals.

With a 17-10 record overall, 13-3 in conference, Saint Mary’s eclipsed the school’s previous record for wins in each category. The Belles also reached the championship game of the MIAA conference tournament for the first time in school history, but fell to conference powerhouse Hope 77-47 in the finals on February 28.

“It means a lot to reach the MIAA championship game,” third-year head coach Jennifer Henley said. “Every team in this conference strives to get there.”

After graduating one of the most distinguished senior classes in the program’s history, Saint Mary’s used a balance of veteran leadership and impact freshmen to finish with 13 wins in the MIAA, second only to Hope’s 15-1 mark. The Dutchmen’s lone loss came at the hands of the Belles at Saint Mary’s Angela Athletic Facility in January.

Henley is confident that her squad will be able to build on this season’s success, and the strong freshman and sophomore classes are a testament to the program’s bright future.

“With each new season, we continue to try and get one step closer to the [NCAA Division III Championships],” Henley said. “Despite coming up short, making it to the championship game validates that we are moving in the right direction.”

The Belles will lose four seniors from this year’s team: Meghan Conaty, Katie Rashid, Erin Newsom and Nicole Beier.

“I am very proud of our four seniors,” Henley said. “They took ownership of this team early on and are a big reason for the success we had. One of the best parts of this season for me is to watch how this team has improved since [going 2-6 in non-conference play].”

Newsom earned an All-MIAA first team selection, while forward Beier received All-MIAA second team honors. Newsom finished third in the MIAA in both scoring (14.4 ppg) and rebounds (7.8 ppg).

Sophomore guard Liz Wade also earned conference honors, being named the MIAA Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league in steals (3.56 spg) and finishing second in assists.

Losing four seniors, especially a senior class as strong as the Belles’, will hit any program hard, Henley said.

“It’s hard to say who will fill the roles that are seniors had this year,” she said. “Each season brings a new identity. Our four outgoing seniors have set the bar high for those that follow. I am very proud of this team and all that they have accomplished this season.”