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SMC Volleyball

Belles lose conference opener to Alma

| Thursday, September 4, 2014

In their first MIAA game Tuesday, the Belles’ fell to Alma in a 3-1 loss.

Belles coach Toni Elyea said the Belles must improve across the board if they want to play at a level that can win conference games.

“We just have to play better to beat a team like Alma,” Elyea said. “They’re a very good team, and we just did not play well. We didn’t hit well, and we never found a rhythm offensively. We made too many offensive errors, and our passing has to be more consistent. It’s just got to get better.”

The Belles (1-4, 0-1 MIAA) kept the opening set close and held a late 21-20 lead. However, Alma (5-0, 1-0) closed the set out by winning five of the final six points to take the first set. The Scots never trailed on their way to a 25-17 second-set victory. Saint Mary’s fought hard in the third set to rally from five-point deficits on two separate occasions, but the Scots steadied themselves and closed out for a 25-20 win. From there, the Scots cruised to a 25-13 win in the fourth set to clinch the match.

Despite the disappointment of the loss, Elyea said she saw some positives in the performance, especially from a couple younger players.

“Our blocking has really looked good — it’s come a long way and [freshman middle hitter] Rachel Bonek has really done a nice job,” Elyea said. “[Sophomore setter] Clare McMillan has done a great job as well. She has really made good choices setting for us. We just have to get into a better rhythm to support her. We’re excited to hopefully see that come together this weekend.”

The weekend slate sees the first two matches of a five-match home stand, as Saint Mary’s will face Olivet and Albion.

Olivet (2-3, 1-0) is coming off a sweep of MIAA foe Kalamazoo, while Albion (0-5, 0-1) was swept in its last outing against Calvin, the No. 1 team in the AVCA coaches’ poll .

Elyea says she is confident in her team but is emphasizing a team-wide focus on staying focused and maintaining a top-flight effort throughout the course of a match.

“The main thing will be consistency,” Elyea said. “We have to play our game and be at the level we are capable of. The teams we’re playing are scrappy, and we have to stay focused and play the way we know we can.”

While a few Belles have posted solid stats in the season so far, Elyea said being back at home could be the biggest factor for Saint Mary’s this weekend.

“We’re very excited for this weekend,” Elyea said. “It will take some pressure off to be back home, and we can relax and just be energized to play back on our home court with our home fans, friends and family. We have a lot of people coming this weekend, and we definitely feel the excitement.”

The Belles face Olivet at home Friday at 7 p.m. before taking on Albion at noon on Saturday.

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About Josh Dulany

Originally from Texas, I grew up overseas and attended high school in Ethiopia. I have always followed sports intently and enjoy watching and playing practically any sport. I am double majoring in Marketing and FTT.

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