SMC to play first conference games
Observer Sports Staff | Tuesday, September 9, 2014
With four games under its belt in the 2014 season, Saint Mary’s begins its MIAA conference schedule Thursday as it takes on Kalamazoo.
The Belles (2-2) have begun the season with mixed results, opening with a 3-1 loss to Bethel before bouncing back against Mount St. Joseph for a 2-1 overtime win. After falling to the strong offense of Illinois Wesleyan in their third game and losing 4-1, they pulled out a 1-0 win over Illinois Tech on a late goal by sophomore forward Liza Felix.
The Hornets (3-1, 0-1 MIAA), who finished one spot behind the Belles for sixth place in the conference last season, got off to a strong start, winning all three of their non-conference games. They earned 1-0 wins against Otterbein and Aurora, followed by a 2-0 win over Transylvania. In their first MIAA contest of the season against Trine, however, they were not quite able to replicate their success, letting up their first goal of the season in the 57th minute of a 1-0 loss.
Games between Saint Mary’s and Kalamazoo have been tightly contested and highly defensive in recent years, with just one goal in each of the last four matches. Last season, each team posted a 1-0 win on its respective home pitch to split the series 1-1, and in the 2012 season, Saint Mary’s won both contests 1-0.
The matchup Thursday figures to be another defensive battle, with a Kalamazoo team that has let up only one goal through its first four games. It is anchored on defense by junior goalkeeper Lucy Mailing, who was named MIAA Defensive Player of the Week after posting her first two shutouts.
That is not to say that the Hornets are not an offensive threat as well — despite only scoring four goals so far, they boast 68 shots and 33 shots on goal through four games. They had 34 shots in their loss to Trine alone, none of which resulted in goals.
The Belles, like the Hornets, have struggled to convert their goal-scoring opportunities, with just five goals scored on the season. They have posted a comparable 59 shots and 29 shots on goal, while only allowing 41 shots and 19 on goal.
The Saint Mary’s offense has come from a variety of sources, with each of the five goals coming from a different player — three from midfielders, one from senior defender Mary Kate Hussey and the aforementioned goal by Felix at forward against Illinois Tech. Felix leads the team with 17 shots and nine shots on goal.
Hornets sophomore defender Paige Sambor leads Kalamazoo’s offense with a goal and an assist, as well as 12 shots.
After the game against Kalamazoo, the Belles have a quick turnaround before their second conference game, this one against Alma on Saturday. The Scots (3-1, 1-0 MIAA) finished second in the conference last year with a 13-4 MIAA record.
The Belles will host their opening MIAA game against Kalamazoo at 4 p.m. on Thursday at the Saint Mary’s soccer field.