Belles top Kalamazoo at home
Josh Dulany | Monday, September 22, 2014
Saint Mary’s took down Kalamazoo on Friday to break a two-match losing streak and end its five-match home stand with a win.
The Belles (4-6, 3-3 MIAA) took the first two sets in dominant fashion, as they stormed their way to 25-15 and 25-19 victories. Kalamazoo (6-6, 1-5) fought back to take the third set, 25-21, but Saint Mary’s responded by cruising to a 25-19 triumph in the fourth set to clinch the match.
Belles coach Toni Elyea said she felt that the team’s unified effort was the main factor in the Belles’ win.
“We really played a great game as an entire team,” Elyea said. “I thought especially on the offensive end we were cohesive as a unit, found a great rhythm and turned in a great performance. We hit exceptionally well, but also played solid defensively. We had four players with double-digit digs, and we just really did a great job.”
Senior Kati Schneider led all Belles with 19 digs and also racked up a game-high 22 kills. Schneider now has 120 kills and 136 digs on the season, both of which are team-leading marks.
Elyea said she was pleased with Schneider’s effort and the role she played in an important win. The Belles won just one set in a pair of losses to Trine and Calvin, on Sept. 10 and 16, respectively, before earning the victory over the Hornets.
Six games into its conference schedule, Saint Mary’s sits at .500 in MIAA play. The Belles currently sit in fifth place in the conference, which includes Hope and Calvin – two of the nation’s top 5 teams.
Overall, Elyea said she was happy with how the team has started its conference slate. However, she also stressed the need to continually improve as the season progresses.
“We have really played well at times and it is just about finding a way to be consistent,” Elyea said. “We know it does not get any easier from here so we have to stay focused, build on the things we’ve done well and continue to try and always play at the level we are capable of.”
Adrian will be Saint Mary’s first test, as the Belles attempt to establish that consistency. The Bulldogs (9-7, 3-4) are also coming off a 3-1 victory over Kalamazoo. Adrian has won seven of its last nine matches, and Elyea said its offense would be one of the better ones Saint Mary’s faces. Elyea said she was especially impressed by the efficient way the Bulldogs have converted their attacking opportunities.
“They are a strong team with a lot of hitting that will really stretch us,” Elyea said. “Adrian has a great outside hitter in [junior] Jordan Busse, and they are extremely consistent as a team. We will be relying on our blocking. Our blocks have been a real strength for us, so it’s just about maintaining that against a team that will definitely challenge us in that area.”
This is the Belles’ final conference contest before they travel to Hope, which is currently the nation’s top-ranked team. Elyea said the team realizes that the season is entering a challenging stage and every match will require top-flight focus.
“This is a key stretch of the season,” Elyea said. “Every game is big for us, but we have a couple especially crucial conference games coming up, so it will be big for us to go out this week and put in a strong effort.”
The Belles will look to do just that when they square off with the Bulldogs on Wednesday at 7 p.m., in Adrian, Michigan.