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SMC Volleyball: Team seeks first win at Elmhurst Invitational

Chris Masoud | Friday, September 3, 2010

Following a three-game sweep at the hands of Bethel on Wednesday, the Belles look to get into the win column for the first time this season as they compete in the Elmhurst Invitational. Saint Mary’s will face the University of Chicago and Wheaton on Friday, before taking on Western New England and Elmhurst Saturday in the final tune-up before the conference season.

“We’ve got some tough competition, more of the same,” Belles coach Toni Kuschel said. “We’re going to have some strong blockers up at the net. The University of Chicago had a great record last year, and they have a lot of returners. Wheaton College is another strong powerhouse.”

Wheaton, Western New England and Elmhurst will taste their first action of the season at the Invitational, while Chicago is already off to a 2-0 start after dismantling Lake Forest 3-1 and Dominican 3-0 in its first tournament of the year.

Kuschel is confident Saint Mary’s (0-1) will rise to the challenge as it faces stiff competition early in the season. She credits the senior class for bringing drive and professionalism to the court every day, qualities that have rubbed off on the underclassmen.

“They [seniors] have just been doing an amazing job from day one. Coming in with five freshmen this year, they’ve just done a great job creating that family-type atmosphere here at Saint Mary’s. They’ve really taken the underclassmen under their wing, and our junior leaders are doing the same thing. They’re all just getting along so well.”

Despite the loss, several players emerged as contributors on the Belles’ squad. Sophomore transfer Allison Zandarski racked up six kills to lead the team, while junior setter Danie Brink chipped in with 14 assists and three digs.

While pleased with the Belles’ performance on the defensive side, Kuschel said she expects a better performance on the offensive end as the younger players adjust to the faster style of play.

“We’re just looking to improve,” Kuschel said. “We’re really focused on doing our personal best, and just coming up with the plays we know we can make, and putting the ball away when we can. We’re running a complex offense, and our players are really buying into that.”