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Belles stifled by Thunder in conference loss

In three sets of action Saturday evening, the Saint Mary Belles’ volleyball squad led just once against the Trine Thunder, falling 3-0 in their 12th straight defeat. The final score was 17-25, 23-25, 17-25. The Belles kept things close throughout and recorded some hot stretches to challenge the Thunder. But outside of a 1-0 lead in the third set, they never surpassed the hosts on the scoreboard during the contest. Junior outside hitter Colleen McCarthy and freshman rightside hitter Mia Shields led the Belles with 13 kills apiece.

In the first set, the name of the game was unforced errors. The Belles matched the Thunder with 11 kills apiece. However, they also recorded 10 attacking errors. Their hitting percentage sat at .023 through one set, and their offensive inconsistency allowed Trine to seize control. The Belles battled back from an early 9-3 deficit with six straight points, spearheaded by a pair of McCarthy kills.

However, Trine quickly notched the next four points and 10 of the next 13 to take a commanding 19-12 advantage. Saint Mary’s didn’t get closer than 22-17, and Trine scored the final three points to claim the first set.

The second set was a more even affair as the Belles tied the score on six occasions after the set began. Then, with the score knotted up at 12 points apiece, Trine drilled home a pair of kills, taking a two-point lead they wouldn’t relinquish. After trading points for a bit, the Thunder gradually stretched their advantage to a set-high four points at 21-17.

The Belles fought back, however, to push Trine to the limit. Down 24-21, Saint Mary’s notched a couple of points to get back within one. Freshman outside hitter Delaney Martin hammered a kill to make it 24-23. However, Trine replied with a clean win on their third set point opportunity to take the 2-0 advantage.

The third set started to get out of control pretty quickly for the Belles. After taking their first lead of the game via a Trine attacking error, the Belles surrendered a 5-0 run. Trine ultimately blitzed the visitors for an 8-1 lead, forcing a Belles’ timeout with the score sitting at 8-2.

Saint Mary’s looked far more composed after that timeout, as four different Belles garnered kills in a four-point spurt, eventually closing the gap to 13-12. But they would get no closer. Trine claimed six of the next eight points to essentially ice the result, going up 19-13. The Belles never got closer than five points again, and Trine clinched the game with a service ace for the 25-17 three-set victory.

The loss marks Saint Mary’s 12th-straight, including an 0-4 start to MIAA play. On Sept. 20, they led Kalamazoo 2-1, and since then, the Belles have lost 17 straight sets. They have a prime chance to break their streak Wednesday, when they pay a visit to Alma College, the other winless team in the conference. Alma is 0-5 in MIAA play and their 2-14 record is a game worse than the Belles’ 3-13 mark. That game starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday before Saint Mary’s returns home for two games.

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