Belles look to build on fall success in new season
Joe Everett | Wednesday, March 2, 2016
After finishing near the top of the conference in the fall, Saint Mary’s now heads into its spring season with high expectations.
The Belles finished third in the MIAA and placed fourth or higher at seven of their eight competitions in the fall, including a pair of first-place finishes. Because of their strong finish in conference play during the fall, the Belles will compete this spring against Hope, Olivet and Trine for the conference’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament. For Belles head coach Kim Moore, earning that automatic berth to the NCAA tournament is a top focus for her team going into the spring season.
“We met our goal to get into the top four in our conference this past fall,” Moore said. “Now our goal is to win our conference’s NCAA bid and make it to nationals as a team. I’m more confident than ever that this group of girls can get it done, and that makes me so excited.”
At a glance, Saint Mary’s will return eight players this spring with two studying abroad. The Belles had five players with a scoring average better than 90 in the fall, led by seniors Sammie Averill and Katie Zielinski. Moore said the Belles must rely on both their veteran leadership and talented youth this spring.
“We have lost two important players to our team this spring due to them going a semester abroad, so everyone on our team will have to really step up, but I am confident we have the players who are up to that challenge,” Moore said. “This group of girls is very tight and have some really lofty team goals in mind. They are really going to push and challenge each other this season. I think if they continue to do that we will have a really successful spring.”
The Belles saw regular and consistent improvement from the whole team as the fall season progressed, evidenced by their continually dropping scoring average. The team is led by Averill, who became just the eighth golfer in program history to earn MIAA Most Valuable Golfer accolades for posting the lowest adjusted scoring average. The senior also earned All-MIAA First Team honors in addition to her season medalist recognition, and Moore said she expects more of the same from her senior star this spring.
“[Sammie] is coming off her best individual season as a Belle, and one of the best individual seasons in program history, so I’m really expecting a lot of big things from her,” Moore said. “She has worked hard athletically and academically over the off-season, and I am really expecting her to use her successes from this past fall to help give her confidence this spring.”
Moore also mentioned junior captain Courtney Carlson, who is also coming off her best season this past fall, as another Belle who will have a large impact in the spring.
“[Courtney] is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, working player on this team and her efforts this off-season [have] really started to show in our early practice sessions,” Moore said. “Her swing is really looking good, and her confidence is only growing. I am excited to see how she and the rest of the team do once we can start practicing outside on a regular basis.”
Saint Mary’s opens its spring season at the George Fox Invitational March 12-13 in Peoria, Arizona.