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SMC Volleyball

Saint Mary’s volleyball says goodbye to seniors, prepares for fall

| Friday, May 19, 2023

Sam Godinez
Belle’s freshman outside hitter Grace Braselton reaches for the ball in a Sept. 6 matchup against Trine.

The Saint Mary’s volleyball team’s three departing seniors, Emma Watford, Sam Vorderer and Courtney Pelletier, provided so much leadership on and off the court this season, head coach Denise Van De Walle said.

Pelletier, a Mishawaka native, made a particularly strong impact as team captain on “three different occasions,” Van De Walle added.

“[Pelletier] was a fun-loving but yet very competitive and caring type of player and captain,” Van De Walle said.

Over four years, Van De Walle said her players gain immeasurable benefits from the time they spend as a collegiate student-athlete.

“When they’re being hired or even looked at for graduate school, that pops out on their resume right away. Employers want athletes because of their time management skills, their ability to work as a team, their commitment and dedication,” Van De Walle said.

The graduating seniors are well-prepared to transition into their professional careers. But saying goodbye to their sport is often difficult for such great athletes.

“The biggest factor is when they stop playing, there’s a void. It’s hard for most to just let it go,” Van De Walle said. “Some of them are ready for the transition. Courtney has told me time and time again that she misses volleyball already.”

This past fall, Belles volleyball finished 5-19 overall with a 1-7 conference record in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA).

“Our fall wasn’t what we expected at all as far as wins and losses goes,” Van De Walle said. “As far as team culture, team building and team morale, we have a great team with great team chemistry so that I’m not concerned about at all.”

In the offseason, during the team’s 15 spring practices, Van De Walle said the roster was down to just seven athletes with the seniors not participating, one player in Ireland and another player sidelined because of surgery.

“You may think, ‘Gosh, what did you do with this seven?’ (But) we had the best spring ever,” Van De Walle said. “We got quite a bit of touches on the ball. During those 15 practices, the improvement was great. Because it was so small, they got a lot of coaching, a lot of personal attention.”

Van De Walle also said the team has three commitments for next season and could add three more.

“We could have a minimum of three new kids or a maximum of six,” Van De Walle said.

However, to replace the leadership and playing of the seniors is impossible, Van De Walle said.

“You just have to move on is the best way to describe it because you can’t replace everything that they brought to the program during their four years — well, actually three because of Covid,” Van De Walle said. “But we don’t replace them. You just try to move on and fill in the gaps the best you can.”

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About Peter Breen

Peter Breen is an associate news editor for The Observer. He can be reached at [email protected]. Breen grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and is a senior majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies.

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