Belles earn signature win, send lone senior out in style
Hayden Adams | Friday, May 15, 2020
The Saint Mary’s volleyball team continued its rebuild this past season by improving on the prior year. After a 16-10 performance in 2017, the Belles’ record dipped to 12-18 the following season, but was up to 13-16 this season and included some noteworthy moments.
The team got off to a hot start in 2019, winning three of their first four contests and four of their first six. They then hit a rough patch, however, losing six of their next eight.
The Belles (13-16, 3-5 MIAA) struggled against the marquee teams on their schedule as they were swept by almost every ranked team they faced. The team beat the only ranked team against whom they won a set, and it made for a memorable experience according to head coach Denise Van De Walle.
“Going to Atlanta this year and playing in Emory’s tournament. It was a top 25 tournament,” Van De Walle said. “Emory was No. 1 in the nation, Wisconsin-Whitewater was No. 7 and Susquehanna was No. 25. We were the only unranked team, and we beat [Wisconsin-Whitewater] in four sets. That’s the first time a Saint Mary’s team has beaten a top-10 team ever.”
Even so, the unit still wound up with a losing record on the season and a first-round conference tournament loss to Trine, a result Van De Walle said she is not satisfied with.
“I wasn’t too happy because we didn’t compete very hard,” she said. “It didn’t define our season by any means, but I had higher expectations for that match since we had just beaten them. I knew it was going to be tough to do it back-to-back. It was a big disappointment.”
Despite the early postseason exit, defeating a ranked team was not the only bright spot on the year. Van De Walle highlighted some of the key aspects of the season, including senior outside hitter Nicole Lukens and freshman outside hitter Megan Collantes being named to the All-MIAA Second Team and Collantes earning Freshman of the Year honors.
As for her team’s lone senior, Van De Walle had praise for Lukens’ achievements and what she meant to the team.
“Another great memory was watching the team celebrate Nicole when she got her 1,000th kill on senior night. They went nuts for her,” she said. “Another memory for Nicole is when she just received the Marv Wood Outstanding Senior Athlete Award. That was a huge deal. I am so very proud of her.”
Van De Walle said the team continues to remain in contact through the offseason.
“We meet via Zoom regularly,” she said. “Also someone from the team emails all of us every day to let us know how they’re doing, what’s going on in their world, etc.”
The Belles are also working to build on the progress they made last season and shore up areas that need improvement.
“We’re working on our goals right now,” Van De Walle said. “[We] certainly want to improve on last year’s record, want to be in the top three and send this next senior class out well. We have a great group of five seniors who are committed to making next year a very memorable one. They have a clear vision of what they want, and I believe in them. I believe they will lead well and that 2020 will be a very good year.”