After grabbing its second win of the season, Saint Mary’s dropped its next two matches to finish 1-2 over the break.
The Belles (2-12-1, 1-10-1 MIAA) broke their seven-game winless streak against Trine, 2-1, on Oct. 17 to open their fall break action. The Belles managed to outshoot the Thunder (2-14-1, 1-13-1) 17-10 in the game, and they controlled possession for much of the game.
The Belles struck first when senior defender and captain Lindsay Rzepecki scored her second goal of the season off an assist from junior defender Lizzie Cusick in the 29th minute to give the Belles a 1-0 lead. Then, in the second half, freshman midfielder/defender Mary Kate McCarthy entered the game as a sub and scored the first collegiate goal of her career to put the Belles up 2-0 in the 65th minute. After conceding a goal to Trine just four minutes later, Saint Mary’s was able to hold on to secure the 2-1 victory.
Following the victory, Belles head coach Ken Nuber said he was proud of the resilience his team showed in the win.
“We played very well and had the game in hand with 20 [minutes] left when we gave up the goal,” Nuber said. “Trine had a 10-minute run at us that really put us under pressure, and I credit them for that. The last 10 minutes was very professional, and we handled the game to get the win. Very proud of the girls. It’s been tough, [but] the leadership of our three seniors has been good.”
Following the win, the Belles had a week off before taking the field against Calvin this past Saturday. In the game, the Knights (15-2-1, 13-0-1) outshot the Belles, 21-11, and held them scoreless in the 4-0 victory. The loss marked the 10th time this season the Belles have been shutout by their opponent.
Despite the result, Nuber said he felt his team played very well in the first half. However, the physical nature of second half put the game out of reach, Nuber said.
“Calvin was a good game, but it got away from us in the second half,” Nuber said. “We outshot them in the first half and had two very good opportunities to score. We lost a few players during the second half to injury. The game turned extremely physical and, unfortunately, the game was affected by it. I’m proud of our Belles in not retaliating and handling themselves in a positive way.”
Saint Mary’s ended their recent stretch of games with a matchup against Hope on Tuesday. Belles sophomore defender Rachel Moore scored her first goal of the season for the Belles in the fifth minute to level the score, but the attack of the Flying Dutch (15-2-2, 12-1-2) proved to be too much for the Belles; they outshot the Belles 17-5 on their way to a 3-1 win.
Given the strength of Hope’s squad, Nuber said the match was one of the best performances Saint Mary’s has put together this season.
“Hope is by far the best team in the conference, and we had a great game with them,” Nuber said. “Early and late goals soured a great performance.”
Next up on the docket for Saint Mary’s is a home game against Adrian. The game will also be Senior Day for the Belles, as three seniors — Rzepecki and midfielders Kathryn Lueking and Maggie McLaughlin — will be recognized prior to the game.
With just two games left on the year and the team out of playoff contention, these last two games for the Belles are all about getting heathy and finishing strong, Nuber said.
“We are still not healthy, but we are hoping to get a few back for Saturday,” Nuber said. “We will finish the season with pride and work to get a few results in the final two games.”
Saint Mary’s is set to next take the pitch Saturday at noon against Adrian at Junior Irish Airport Fields.
Saint Mary’s went 2-1 over the past week, bookending a loss to No. 10 Hope with wins over Kalamazoo and Olivet.
The Belles (14-11, 7-7 MIAA) traveled to Kalamazoo, Michigan, on Friday to take on the Hornets (1-23, 0-14). Entering the match, the Hornets were owners of a 20-match losing streak, including 13 in straight sets. They were unable to buck that trend, as the Belles cruised to a three-set, 26-24, 25-19, 25-14 victory, marking its eighth such victory this season. Junior outside hitter Meaghan Gibbons notched a match-high 12 kills, while sophomore defensive specialist McKenzie Todd led all players with 19 digs.
On Saturday, the Belles played the Flying Dutch (22-5, 13-2) on the road. Saint Mary’s fortunes were reversed this time around, however, as the Belles were swept in straight sets, 25-23, 25-16, 25-21. The Belles were led by junior setter Clare McMillan, who recorded a double-double with team-highs in assists (13) and digs (15) in the match.
The Belles returned home Tuesday to take on the Comets (14-12, 3-11). Senior outside hitter and captain Katie Hecklinski led the way for the Belles, as her double-double in kills (17) and digs (10) propelled the team to a three-set victory, 25-20, 25-17, 25-20.
Saint Mary’s will take the court to host Alma on Friday in a match with major implications. Not only will it be Senior Night, during which Hecklinski and defensive specialist Angela Bukur will be recognized, but it also represents the penultimate conference match for the Belles. Just one game back of the final spot in the MIAA playoff picture, the Belles will likely need to come away with victories in both of their remaining matches to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Saint Mary’s will take the court against Alma on Friday at 7 p.m. at Angela Athletic Center.
SMC Cross Country
Following its week off for fall break, Saint Mary’s will return to action this weekend for the MIAA championships.
Saturday’s conference championships will be hosted by Olivet and will take place at Broadway Acres Golf Course in Charlotte, Michigan.
In their last meet, the Belles finished 33rd at the Wisconsin-Oshkosh Invitational. Like she has done all season, junior Brittany Beeler was the top finisher for Saint Mary’s. Beeler finished in 57th place overall in the field, while senior Allie Danhof, who ran a career-best time, finished in 196th, and junior Kaitlyn Alessi, who finished in 248th, were also among the Belles’ leaders.
No. 10 Hope leads the field, while No. 24 Calvin is the other ranked squad in the field.
The MIAA championships are scheduled to begin 11 a.m. Saturday in Charlotte, Michigan.