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Belles basketball unable to build on solid start in 2022-23

| Friday, May 19, 2023

Meghan Lange | The Observer
Junior guard Elle Deardorff sizes up a defender in St. Mary’s 85-49 loss to Trine at home on Feb. 15, 2023.

The importance of starting a season strong in sports is a bit cliche, but undoubtedly true. The first few games of a year can set the tone for what’s ahead, for better or for worse. At the end of the day though, they are just a handful games out of the whole slate. A good start is important, but it must be built on to be meaningful.

The Saint Mary’s basketball team achieved the first part of that sentiment in 2022-23. After starting 0-3 last year and losing 11 of their first 13, the Belles began their season on fire this time around. Saint Mary’s took each of its first two and three of its first four games of the season, which included a pair of double-digit margins of victory.

However, the Belles were unable to maintain that success throughout the season. Saint Mary’s dropped eight of its next nine contests. Their season-opening two-game win streak would be the only time in 2022-23 they would win consecutive games. Ultimately, St. Mary’s finished the season only marginally better than last year with a 7-18 record. The Belles, who went 4-12 in conference play, struggled mightily when outside of South Bend. A win against Kalamazoo in February 1 was their only win in 10 away games. The Belles also went 0-2 in neutral site games, which sticks out like a sore thumb in contrast to a respectable 6-7 home mark.

Defense proved to be a major issue throughout the Belles during their skid. Saint Mary’s allowed over 80 points in 14 of their 25 games, a mark they topped just three times. The Belles never cleared 85 points whereas their opponents reached or topped this bar on nine occasions. The Belles did not win a single game when allowing more than 70 points all season.

Still, there were some positives in head coach Melissa Makielski’s seventh season coaching the team. Senior guard Maddie Rzepka and sophomore guard Julia Schutz were both named to the 2022-23 Academic All-District Team. The duo were also excellent on the court, leading the Belles with 12.3 and 11.2 points per game, respectively. Junior forward Athena Samson led the team in blocks per game (0.9) and rebounds per game (8.6). Senior guard Nikki Murphy paced the Belles with 3.1 assists per game. Junior guard Elle Deardorff was strong on the defensive end of the court, leading St. Mary’s with 1.1 steals per contest.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Andrew McGuinness

Andrew McGuinness is a rising senior in Siegfried Hall and Sports Editor of The Observer. He is from Haddonfield, New Jersey, a short drive away from Philadelphia. Naturally, he loves all of his Philly sports teams, even if they don't always love him back (although that may just be changing). Feel free to reach out below or on Twitter (@_AndrewMcG) to talk sports or TV shows, especially if they're Stranger Things, Survivor or/and Ted Lasso.

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