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Despite cancelled season, Belles’ volleyball comes together as group

| Friday, May 21, 2021

After the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) postponed fall competitions to the spring, Saint Mary’s announced in early February that they would be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a decision specific to St. Mary’s and not to the rest of the conference, the Belles’ Volleyball team did not see it coming. Head Coach Denise Van De Walle explained the team’s immediate reactions.

“When we first found out we were crushed,” said Van De Walle. “We were so excited to start practices later in February. We got together and talked the night we found out and cried, talked and came up with a list of questions we wanted to ask the administration.”

Before the decision, the Belles had spent a good portion of quarantine planning for the season and how they were going to bounce back from a 13-16 season the year before.

“We were really excited and looking forward to the season,” coach Van de Walle said. “We had spent the past several months on zoom calls talking about how committed we were to strive for a championship culture. We were all in!”

Not only had they gotten the energy where it needed to be, but the results were shifting in their favor as well. The last two months of the 2019-2020 season saw more wins than the first half of the campaign.

“We had several seniors [then juniors] who were peaking at the right time,” she said, “And several new players who were very good, too, and we were excited to see how good we could be!”

This year, they will say goodbye to those seniors though. Despite the extra year of eligibility, setter Morgan VanderWey and middle hitter Lindsay Pelletier will be graduating. VanderWey led the team in assists with 830 in her junior season. She had a total of 2853 assists in her career, as well as 163 kills and 737 digs. Pelletier played in all 107 sets of her junior season, and had 507 kills and 123 digs throughout her three years with the Belles.

With everyone else returning, including sophomore Kathryn Barnes and freshmen Colleen McCarthy, Molly Pooler and Karla Rigan — all of whom have yet to see the court in a Belles uniform — Coach Van De Walle is ready to get the team back into high gear.

“Our main goals will be to be in the best shape possible and be top 4 in the conference.” Van de Walle said. “We want to gel as a team and play hard for each other.”

Gelling on the court should be easy for them, as Van De Walle said they already have off the court and part of that is due to the disappointment of not playing this year.

“We are a close-knit team with excellent team chemistry.” Van de Walle said. “Losing our seniors will be hard but I’m looking forward to seeing what our leaders will look like. I’m very optimistic!”

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