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SMC Volleyball

Saint Mary’s readies for Albion match

| Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Saint Mary’s will take on Albion in a crucial match Wednesday that could improve its standings in the MIAA.

Wednesday’s performance will be indicative of how the Belles (8-8, 5-5 MIAA) stand against the other members of the MIAA, which is led by two of the nation’s top four teams, No. 1 Hope and No. 4 Calvin. The Belles, who sit in fourth place in MIAA standings, will need to secure a win against Albion (3-16, 1-9), which is ninth in the MIAA, to break into the conference’s top three spots. Last year, the Belles tied for third place in the conference and advanced to the MIAA tournament.

“This is a must-win if we want to reach the top three in conference,” Belles coach Toni Elyea said.

Sophomore Meaghan Gibbons (right) sets up her team in  preparation for a serve during  a 3-0 loss to Alma on Oct. 3.Caitlyn Jordan
Sophomore Meaghan Gibbons (right) sets up her team in
preparation for a serve during a 3-0 loss to Alma on Oct. 3.
The Belles lost, 3-0, to fifth-ranked Alma on Friday at Angela Athletic Facility, following a series of three close sets (25-20, 25-23, 25-20). Belles senior captain and outside hitter Kati Schneider and senior middle blocker Melanie Kuczek led the team with 11 kills each, and sophomore setter Lexi Grady had 17 assists.

The Belles quickly rebounded from their loss the next day with a 3-0 win against Olivet (5-14, 1-9) after three successful sets (27-25, 26-24, 25-21). Junior outside hitter Katie Hecklinski led Saint Mary’s with 12 kills and 15 digs. Sophomore setter Clare McMillan picked up 35 assists, her fourth-best performance in that category this season.

Comparing performance in the match against Olivet to the one against Alma, the Belles were able to improve their hitting percentage and scoring opportunities. However, Elyea said her team’s defense has been its highlight.

“We have been blocking really well this season,” Elyea said. “It has been one of our strong points throughout the season.”

With Wednesday’s match, Saint Mary’s hopes to overtake the third-ranked Trine, which is currently tied with the Belles in terms of league wins but has secured four more overall wins. In order to improve their record, the Elyea said the Belles intend to rely heavily on offensive strategies to form a more cohesive team dynamic.

“We want to get [the] offensive rhythm early on,” Elyea said. “If they get in rhythm with the settlers, [we can get] the outside shooters to come alive.”

Saint Mary’s takes on Albion today at 7 p.m. at Kresge Gymnasium in Albion, Michigan.

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