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SMC Volleyball: Belles drop opener to cross-town rival Bethel

Chris Masoud | Thursday, September 2, 2010

As they do every year, the Belles opened their season against Bethel in a matchup of cross-town rivals. Making full use of their home court advantage, the Pilots handed Saint Mary’s its first loss of the season in straight sets (25-17, 25-12, 25-23).

“The first game we came out really strong,” Belles coach Toni Kuschel said. “We were a little bit concerned with our servers going into the match, but we just did a phenomenal job on serve-receive. I cannot say enough good things about our serve reception and our defense. Going into the game strong, we just pretty much went point-for-point with them.”

Pilots sophomore Callie Hartman led all players with 11 kills, while adding 18 digs and two blocks. Junior Ashley Wagner chipped in with nine kills, two aces, and three blocks.

Despite picking up the loss, several players made significant contributions for the Belles (0-1), which Kuschel expects to continue heading into the conference season.

Sophomore Allison Zandarski paced the squad with six kills, while freshman Christi Wyble and sophomore Stephanie Bodien each added four. Junior Danie Brink helped lead the offense with 14 assists to go along with three digs.

“Zandarski was just huge up at the net for us, got a lot of touches for us, and really came in and did a great job in key plays,” Kuschel said. “She really ended the play well for us. She goes up strong, and puts the ball away when she goes up. That was really great to see her and our junior setter [Brink] connect tonight.”

The Belles struggled to find a rhythm in the second set, as Bethel (1-0) jumped out to an early lead that they would not relinquish. Nevertheless, Saint Mary’s came out strong to start the third and final set, taking a lead before the Pilots rallied to earn their first victory of the season.

“We play them home or away every single year, so that really sets the bar high for the girls, and we know where we stand right off the bat playing a strong powerhouse,” Kuschel said.

The Belles take the court next at the Elmhurst Invitational on Friday and Saturday.