After up and down year, Belles will return key pieces for next season
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, May 17, 2019
After a slow start to the season, losing four of their first five games, Saint Mary’s 2018 campaign picked up momentum, gaining valuable non-conference wins. However, they ultimately fell short of claiming a victory in the final regular season game, eliminating themselves from postseason play.
After winning their season opener against Manchester 3-0, the Belles (12-18, 2-6 MIAA) dropped four straight games to conference opponents. However, they managed to follow that dip with another four-game streak, this time coming out on the winning side. A three-game losing streak followed before the Belles stabilized to split the remaining six games of the season of September.
While October started strong for the Belles — winning their first two matchups — they struggled to maintain momentum, losing seven of nine games. This breakdown in conference play put the Belles in a must-win situation heading into their final regular season matchup against Trine to advance to the conference tournament.
The Thunder (11-12, 3-5 MIAA) opened the game strong, taking a 10-3 lead. While the Belles managed to claw their way back into the set, eventually tying the score at 22, they were unable to close out the set comeback as Trine then scored three straight. The second set proved too much for the Belles to handle when the Thunder claimed a nine-point victory to set up match-point. Facing elimination, the Belles started out the final set strong, posting a 6-4 lead, before settling in with the score knotted up at 12. Trine managed to separate with six-straight points. While Saint Mary’s tried to mount a comeback, the cushion Trine had built was too large to overcome as they claimed the match with a five-point set win.
The Belles’ offense was led by junior outside hitter Nicole Lukens and sophomore middle hitter Lindsey Pelletier, who each recorded 408 and 260 kills, respectively. Lukens and Pelletier also led Saint Mary’s in points per set. Sophomore setter Morgan VanderWey also filled the stat sheet, recording 1,069 assists throughout the season.
With only two seniors graduating from this year’s team, the Belles are in a good position to improve their record going forward. Meanwhile, the emergence of six sophomores — all of whom have earned significant minutes this past season — into upperclassmen leadership should provide them an added advantage in the early parts of next season.