Belles prepare for Trine
Josh Dulany | Tuesday, September 9, 2014
After a strong weekend, the Belles aim to win a third straight match when they play Trine on Wednesday night at home.
Saint Mary’s (3-4, 2-1 MIAA) dropped four of its first five matches but rebounded over the weekend to beat Olivet and Albion in its first home matches of the season.
The Belles are in the midst of five-game homestand where all five matches are against MIAA opponents. Belles coach Toni Elyea said starting off that stretch with victories set the right tone going forward.
“It was wonderful to get a team win,” Elyea said. “It was truly a team effort. We still had some players stand out. [Senior middle hitter] Melanie Kuczek had a great weekend for us. She had 12 blocks, hit extremely well and just had some phenomenal matches. [Sophomore outside hitter] Meaghan Gibbons was strong, too. She had a great serve and was getting over five digs per set, which was huge for us. Overall, though, the team stood out as a whole and got a couple nice wins that can hopefully give us a lot of good things to build on.”
The Belles have just one match this week before Calvin, the No. 1 team in the country, comes to town, but Elyea said the Knights are not yet the team’s focus. She said despite all the positives from last weekend, the Belles still have some key areas to shore up and improve.
“We still have to get more consistent on offense,” Elyea said. “We have to have better communication, especially in transition, and that is something we are working hard on. We want to stay focused and make sure we’re ready to face a great team.”
Indeed, before Saint Mary’s can worry about Calvin, it must face a squad from Trine (5-1, 1-1) that has opened the season by winning five of its first six games, with its only loss coming to Calvin.
The Thunder’s strong start has been spearheaded by the offensive play of senior setter Carly Searles and junior outside hitter Taylor Rabel. Searles leads the team with 189 assists, while Rabel’s 94 kills are also a team high. Elyea said Searles’ playing style and Trine’s offensive scheme will pose a unique challenge for the Belles.
“Searles is a great setter, and they have strong outside hitting,” Elyea said. “[Searles] is a very offensive setter, so we are just trying to get into that mindset and make sure we have our eyes and feet in the right place on every point. We can’t cheat or get ahead of ourselve on defense. Playing well on defense will be huge for us this weekend, and that is our primary focus.”
Defensively, Saint Mary’s has been led by Gibbons’ 93 digs, along with fellow senior outside hitter Kati Schneider’s 87. Meanwhile, on the offensive side, sophomore setter Clare McMillan will play opposite Searles and leads the Belles with 194 assists. Elyea said individual efforts will be critical, but putting it all together as a unit will be the key to getting a win.
“We definitely want make sure everyone is on-point this weekend,” Elyea said. “We want to build of these wins and maintain our strong efforts as a team.”
The Belles and Thunder play at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Angela Athletic Facility.