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Young Belles squad looks to make mark in MIAA

Saint Mary’s College soccer begins its conference play Wednesday at 4 p.m. against Trine. The team will play eight regular-season conference games, and up to three Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) tournament games, should it qualify. The season got off to a rocky start, as the Belles went 0-5-3 in non-conference play. Head coach Farkhod Kurbonov describes one major source of the team’s struggles so far.

“We’re young, and our preseason is so short at the Division III level, that it took us some time to get used to each other and understand our roles on the team,” Kurbonov said.

With nine freshmen, three transfers and Kurbonov brand new to the program himself, the team is in the process of rebuilding. Kurbonov, who previously coached at the club, junior college, NAIA and DII levels, is tasked in his first season with laying a strong foundation to build upon in the future. Kurbonov describes his young team as excited and ambitious, saying, “I believe in the future it’s a very exciting team, but for right now we’re young and hungry.” 

After a slow start this season, the Belles are viewing the beginning of MIAA play as the start of a whole new season. Non-conference play has given the players the opportunity to get on the same page, adjust to the team culture, and for the nine freshmen, get used to the pace and intensity of college soccer. Kurbonov spoke on the progress the team has made in this area.

“Something I think we’re good at is discipline as a team and the organizational part of it… my players are starting to respond the way I would like them to respond,” Kurbonov said.  

This season, Kurbonov and the Belles are looking to improve upon last season’s performance, when the team went 1-7 and missed the playoffs. Kurbonov said this year the team’s goal is to make the playoffs and build from there.

“Long term is complete for the title and make nationals and so on, but for this season, we want to start making small steps, having a strong conference season and making the playoffs,” Kurbonov said.

The current freshmen will be very important to both the Belles’ short-term and long-term goals. The team’s success in conference play this year will largely depend upon whether or not the freshmen, especially those in the starting lineup, can quickly adjust to the demands of college athletics. In the future, they will be responsible for building a new team culture under Coach Kurbonov. With some experience under their belts, the freshmen and the team as a whole are now ready to take on the second half of their schedule. They hope that non-conference play prepared the team to play up to their potential in the games where it really counts.

Contact Sammie McCarthy at smccart9@nd.edu.

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