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SMC Basketball

A season of learning on the court for inexperienced Belles

| Friday, May 13, 2022

Saint Mary’s College’s beautiful campus features Collegiate Gothic buildings like the iconic Le Mans Hall. This makes more modern facilities, like the Angela Athletic and Wellness Center, stand out on the Belles campus.

Angela, which saw significant renovations, opened in its updated form in 2018. However, the gym has seen little action in the past two years as the Saint Mary’s basketball team had their season canceled last year.

But with the new academic year came a new season which was exciting for head coach Melissa Makielski. “Overall, it was great to be back, obviously,” Makielski said. “Missing a year is not something you can imagine what it is going to be like. That created some ups and downs for us.”

One of the downs was inexperience. The team featured eight sophomores and three freshmen, all of whom had no collegiate game experience. The lack of experience created by COVID impacted the team in many different ways, according to Makielski.

“Going to that first game, we forgot little things,” she said. “What the pre-game routine is like, [or] like when to go to the training room.”

The lack of continuity led the Belles to focus on re-establishing culture this season. Makielski said a lack of culture, chemistry, and history felt like she was “almost coming in as a new coach this year.”

Despite the high level of talent, Makielski focused on establishing a new foundation. “[We need to] make sure that this team stays together through the hard times and become better teammates and better basketball players,” Makielski noted.

Tough schedule, COVID presents adversity

There indeed were hard times for the Belles squad this season. The team got off to a 1-5 start in Nov. and followed it with a 1-6 stretch in Dec.

Makielski felt that the toughest stretch of the season “was right around Christmas time.” Beyond the usual problems of being alone on the campus during the holidays, Makielski knew that her team was not playing well at the time.

“You could see those splinters and those fractions kind of imposed [on] the team.”

On top of that, the team had a brief COVID problem which forced the Belles to spend some time apart.

Surprisingly, that may have helped the squad find some chemistry. “It was nice that once we got back from [COVID], I saw a change in our team. [The team] appreciated being together and playing together.” Makielski said.

As the season progressed, the team became more of a unit, and it showed in their disposition.

“When we got to the point where now we are playing for each other, cheering for each other. Those were the moments we gravitated to and built on.” Makielski said.

The Belles ultimately managed five conference wins and qualified for the MIAA tournament. In a conference with two top-five programs, Saint Mary’s faced a bevy of difficult matchups throughout the year. They lost in the first round to No. 3 Hope.

After a disappointing 6-20 campaign, the Belles are looking forward to improving next season. Makielski feels her squad is primed for a comeback. “We have the talent level, and now we have the experience to go with it.”

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About Thomas Zwiller

Thomas is a sophomore currently in attendance at Holy Cross College, studying Business and Theology He is from Saint Joseph MI, and went to high school at Saint Joe SB, playing both varsity football and hockey. Feel free to contact him about all things NFL and NBA.

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