Belles open season against Bethel
Andrew Robinson | Monday, August 25, 2014
As Saint Mary’s continues to prepare for its upcoming season, Belles coach Michael Joyce said he is confident in the potential of his squad, which features both experienced veterans and an exciting class of incoming freshman.After working to build fitness and chemistry throughout the preseason, the Belles have begun to focus on tactics as they get ready for their season opener against Bethel on Friday.
The Belles, who posted a 10-7-3 record last season, will return 17 players, including 11 who got significant playing time last season. Nine of the returners are seniors, including forward Kelly Wilson, who notched three goals and two assists for the Belles last season. Joyce also said he thinks highly of the group of six incoming freshmen on the team.
However, last year’s leading scorer, forward Rosie Biehl, is not returning for the 2014 season. Biehl, now a sophomore, scored a team-high eight goals in 2013.
Saint Mary’s will start the season with four games against non-conference opponents before kicking off a stretch of 16 MIAA games, beginning with Kalamazoo on Sept. 11.
“Our conference opener at home against Kalamazoo will be important to set the tone for the season,” Joyce said. “The last four times we’ve played them, they’ve all been one-goal games that could have gone either way.”
The Belles began last season with two conference losses, which put them in a hole in the conference standings from which they never fully recovered. Joyce said he hopes his squad will be able to change that this year, putting particular importance on opening the season on the right foot.
“The conference is very competitive,” he said. “We’d love to start out well.”
The Belles missed the playoffs by a single game in 2013, finishing 8-5-3 in conference. Joyce said he was happy with the performance of his players but knows the team can improve on that record this season and build on their success.
“We had a good season last year and played great soccer all season but were left out of the playoffs by one win,” he said. “We’ll take a lot of positives from last year, but we’ve got lofty goals of keeping things tight in the back and giving up very few goals and putting more in the back of the net.”
After Kalamazoo, the Belles will quickly turn around and face Alma and Calvin, the MIAA runner-up and champion from last season, respectively. These two early match-ups may have a critical impact on the direction of the season, Joyce said.
Within the following two-and-a-half weeks, the team will square off against Hope, Albion, Olivet, Adrian and Trine to wrap up the first round of conference play, before facing each conference opponent again.
MIAA games conclude with the conference tournament beginning on November 6, and Joyce sees that as the end goal for his team.
“The top four [teams] make the playoffs and we expect to be there,” he said.
The Belles will open their season Friday against Bethel at Saint Mary’s.
Contact Andrew Robinson at [email protected]