SMC wins first ever regular season conference championship
Charlotte Edmonds | Friday, May 17, 2019
Despite being upset in the opening round of the conference tournament, Saint Mary’s recorded a season of program bests. After a shaky start, the Belles won their regular season conference schedule and were the favorite to win the postseason before falling to Hope College.
The Belles (12-6, 8-0 MIAA) offense got off to a hot start, averaging over 16 goals throughout the first seven games. Despite this potent scoring, Saint Mary’s struggled to close these matchups out, losing four of those games. Sophomore midfielder Erin Doyle said integrating the team’s nine freshmen to the game on a collegiate level likely contributed to the initial obstacles the team faced.
“Going into the year, we were kind of unsure of how things would go, being such a young team,” Doyle said. “ … We played a pretty tough non-conference schedule, and we had kind of a lot of losses non-conference, but I think those games really helped us, and we really started to gel going into our conference schedule.”
Doyle said once conference play began everything “just kind of clicked” for the Belles. In April, Saint Mary’s won seven games, with their lone loss coming against the University of Chicago. They clinched the regular season conference title with a 14-12 win over Albion College and earned the No. 1 seed for the postseason tournament. Doyle credited the team’s collective efforts in the offseason for the program’s improvements this season.
“A lot of it was fall ball. We kind of came together as a team and decided that everyone was going to work hard in the offseason, which wasn’t so much like it had been in years before,” she said. “I think the work that everyone put in in the offseason really helped us when we got to the spring.”
In the first round of the MIAA Conference Tournament, facing Hope College, the Belles were trailing by four goals at halftime. Senior midfielder Kate Kelly led an offensive attack to open the half, and the Belles scored six unanswered goals; however, the Flying Dutch (11-6, 5-3 MIAA) mounted a strong comeback effort in the last 10 minutes and ultimately sealed a 13-12 victory, effectively ending the Belles’ season. Six athletes were named to postseason awards, with Doyle and sophomore goalie Emily Kraker headlining as MIAA Offensive and Defensive Most Valuable Players, respectively.
Despite the disappointing end to the season, Doyle said she feels good about the state of the program going forward.
“The culture we created this year should help us next year,” she said. “We return most of our starting lineup, so now that we’ve won the conference before hopefully that’ll be the expectation for us going forward.”