Belles best the Scots in Breast Cancer Awareness match to keep postseason hopes alive
Erin Fennessy | Tuesday, October 12, 2021
In an MIAA conference women’s volleyball match up on Sunday afternoon at the Angela Athletic and Wellness Complex, the Saint Mary’s College Belles triumphed over the Alma College Scots in three sets (3-0; 25-22, 25-19, 25-22). The Belles’ win kept their hopes of making the MIAA postseason alive.
The match was also the Belles’ annual Dig Pink match for breast cancer awareness, where the team sought donations for each dig and kill made during the match. All donations will go to United Health Services of St. Joseph County.
The Dig Pink win was especially meaningful for Saint Mary’s coach Denise Van De Walle, whose sister-in-law died of breast cancer in 2016. “I’m sure this awful disease has touched nearly everyone you know in some way…a neighbor, a friend, a sister, a mother, a grandmother,” she said. “Having a pink game every year and seeking donations for the local survivors is something I love being involved in.”
The Belles came out strong in the first set, driven by two kills from senior Megan Collantes to bring their early lead to 4-1. While the Scots sideline remained rowdy, few attacks found their mark early on. Midway through the set, the Scots and the Belles exchanged a few intense rallies that placed the Scots within striking distance, 12-11. During one particularly long point, the Belles remained calm and kept the Alma line on their toes until senior Allison Thornton found an opening for a kill to bring the score to 17-14. The next three points, however, were claimed by the Scots; tied 17-17, Alma College appeared to be building momentum until their next serve landed out of bounds. The Belles quickly sealed the first set 25-22 with confident defending and two kills each from sophomore Colleen McCarthy and senior Hannah Stacy.
Editor’s note: Thornton is the Photo Editor for The Observer.
The second set opened with a long exchange between the Belles and the Scots, with both teams struggling to find an offensive groove; the first point was claimed by the home side after an attack error by their opponents. The Belles relinquished a set lead for the first time after an Alma ace, making the score 1-2. The score remained tight through the middle of the set, with six ties and three lead changes, until the Belles broke away with an 8-1 run to bring the score to 21-14. A kill by McCarthy, along with a kill and a solo block from sophomore Molly Pooler, rounded out Saint Mary’s claim to the second set, which ended 25-19.
In the third set, the Belles answered a significant scoring run by the Scots to emerge victorious, 25-22. After claiming an 11-7 lead early on, the Belles slipped to a 13-13 tie, followed by eight unanswered points by the Scots. With the score now 13-21, the visiting squad was poised to force a fourth set. The Belles, however remained calm on defense while McCarthy logged four kills and McKenzie Smith landed an ace. The end of the set was marked by scrappy defense on both sides. The home team ultimately claimed the set and the match after a 12-2 run to bring the score to 25-22.
McCarthy led both teams in kills with 16 in addition to logging seven digs, while Stacy claimed a season-high 10 kills to complement her six digs; the pair combined for 26 of Saint Mary’s 39 kills. Collantes collected seven kills and 11 digs, while Thornton, Pooler and McCarthy recorded two blocks each. Senior Courtney Pelletier recorded a team-high 15 digs, while her co-captain Claire Hennessy snagged 25 assists, nine digs along with one block.
The key to Sunday’s win, Van De Walle said, was staying aggressive and attacking at the net. She also praised her team’s focus in the third set. “That was a big deal. I didn’t want to go four sets. I didn’t want to give Alma any hope that they had a chance to win the match,” Van De Walle explained. “Their defense was very good today, and it could’ve changed the third set if we wouldn’t have continued to keep swinging and change our shots.”
Looking ahead, Van De Walle wants to see better serve-receive from her players. “We’re going to continue working on our blocking and defense,” she said.
With the win against Alma, the Belles (6-10, 2-3 MIAA) remain eligible for post-season play in the MIAA conference. Their next match will take place on Saturday, October 16, on the road in Manchester, where they will play a pair of non-conference matches against Rose-Hulman and Manchester.