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Hope provides stiff challenge for Belles

Laura Coletti | Friday, September 23, 2011

The Belles will face their biggest challenge of the season thus far when they travel to take on No. 13 Hope this Friday.

The Flying Dutch (10-2, 4-0 MIAA) enter the match with an unblemished conference record. Saint Mary’s (3-6, 2-3 MIAA) is looking to carry its momentum and continue a high level of play from earlier this week, when the team defeated Trine on the road.

Belles coach Toni Kuschel knows what sort of threat the Flying Dutch pose.

“They are a very tough, fast-paced team,” she said. “We will need to play consistent volleyball. We will need to come up with big plays when they are needed.”

The Belles, set on stringing together their first set of wins this season, are determined to continue the high quality of their recent play.

“We have been playing really well defensively,” Kuschel said.

The Belles have looked to a number of players for consistent performance this year, including some of a large freshman class. Freshman outside hitter Kati Schneider and junior outside hitter Stephanie Bodien have been playing particularly well.

“Schneider has been playing very well for us this year, averaging three kills per set,” Kuschel said. “Bodien has been passing very well and has come up with some big plays at crucial points in the set. She has also been a great vocal leader out on the court for us as well.”

It is going to take more than consistent play for Saint Mary’s to be able to defeat their ranked opponent, though. Kuschel said her team must mentally prepare for the challenge as well.

“It always feels good coming off a win, but this match will be a test of how mentally tough we can be as a team,” she said.

The Flying Dutch roster is loaded with youth, with only two seniors on the squad. However, lack of age does not indicate a lack of talent, as freshman outside hitter Jenna Grasmeyer was named the MIAA’s first player of the week.

Saint Mary’s takes the court in search of its second consecutive win at 7 p.m. Friday at Hope.