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SMC Soccer: Belles set to open conference

Alex Barker | Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Belles open MIAA conference play when they travel to Adrian, Mich., for a matchup with Adrian College today at 4 p.m.

Saint Mary’s (3-6-1) enters conference play after splitting two games at its SMC Fall Classic last weekend with a 2-1 victory over Bethel and a 3-0 defeat against Marian. Despite the lopsided decision against Marian, second-year Belles coach Ryan Crabbe said his team was just a few plays away from running neck-and-neck with a very good Knights team.

“I was not disappointed with things Saturday because we simply did not finish our chances,” Crabbe said. “They beat us on two corners in a short span and a miss-hit cross. We created the chances we needed, but we need to take responsibility in front of goal.”

After a few tough matches early in the season, Crabbe said his team has really begun to hit its stride.

“We are playing very hard right now and that is a byproduct of [the team’s] outstanding fitness level,” he said. “Our team defending and [tactical understanding of the game] has really improved this season. I feel that our players are becoming smarter soccer players every time they’re out on the field.”

But everything isn’t quite where Crabbe wants it to be yet. One area where the Belles have struggled mightily this season is on the offensive end.

“Where we have struggled is finishing and scoring goals,” Crabbe said. “In our last four games we have created a lot of quality looks at goal, but in order to win games we need to finish those chances.”

Last season, the MIAA schedule was unkind to the Belles as they went 1-7 with a very inexperienced squad. Crabbe believes his team is ready to be a real contender this season.

“Honestly, the conference stretch is going to be a toss-up,” he said. “We have played such a tough non-conference schedule that there will be no surprises for us at the level of play. What will make the biggest difference in conference is how teams deal with these games emotionally. We could go 7-1 just as easily as 1-7.”

In a very close match last season, Adrian edged out Saint Mary’s 1-0 after capitalizing on an early Belles mistake.

After their conference opener against the Bulldogs, the Belles will return home for a four-game home stand beginning with conference rival Trine Oct. 3.