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SMC Volleyball: Belles split results over weekend

Aaron Sant-Miller | Monday, September 24, 2012

This weekend, the Belles split two conference matchups, going 1-1 on the weekend in the MIAA. On Friday, the team dominantly defeated conference rival Olivet 3-0, but lost 3-2 to Alma in heartbreaking fashion Saturday.

“Everybody just brought their game to the next level, especially versus Alma,” Belles coach Toni Kuschel said. “They are a great team and we just really rose to the challenge. I’m just very proud and happy of the way my team played.”

The Belles (8-6, 4-2 MIAA) started the weekend hot with a sweep of Olivet (2-12, 1-5 MIAA). In the first set, Saint Mary’s outhit Olivet .214 to .080, and then went on to hit over .400 in the following two sets. Senior setter Danie Brink, sophomore middle hitter Melanie Kuczek, and freshman outside hitter Katie Hecklinski all hit over .500 on the day to lead the team.

“I thought we had a great win,” Kuschel said. “We won in three, which was a goal for us going in. Our middles really stepped up and blocked well.”

Coming out of that win over the Comets, the Belles’ 4-1 MIAA record was the best conference start a Saint Mary’s volleyball team has had since 1997.

Against Alma (9-5, 4-2 MIAA), the team had more difficulty. After losing the first set 25-22, the Belles were able to claim the following two. The Scots forced a fifth set with a 25-20 win in the fourth. Alma squeaked out a 15-12 win in the fifth set, ending the Belles’ weekend on a sour note.

“It was a very hard-fought five-set match,” Kuschel said. “We hit really well as a team. We did really well defensively. We really stepped out well at the net defensively blocking. I’m really proud of the way our team played.”

Once again their captain, Brink, led the Belles. Brink had her third career match of more than 50 assists with 52 helpers, and also contributed a team-high 18 digs.

“Brink again had an amazing match,” Kuschel said. “To put up the number she did as a setter is pretty spectacular.”

Sophomore outside hitter Kati Schneider had a strong performance as well, as she notched 22 kills, which led all athletes in the match and tied her career high.

The Belles can still play better as a team, Kuschel said.

“There are definitely areas that need improvement,” Kuschel said. “We need to eliminate some of our errors behind the service line and some of our receiving errors. When we had our errors, we were constantly forced to play from behind.

“Still, we stepped up to the challenge and played very well. We were just on the wrong end of a 15-12 decision.”

Still, Saint Mary’s showed marked improvement, Kuschel said.

“We hit really well,” Kuschel said. “We transitioned much better, we had a great transition game. We were really communicating well as a team. Everybody just brought their game to the next level.”

For the Belles, the road doesn’t get any easier. On Wednesday, the team hosts No. 2 Calvin College (13-1, 6-0 MIAA) for a 7 p.m. match.