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Belles volleyball swept by Manchester, lose 9th straight

The Saint Mary’s Belles hosted their fourth home game of the season Wednesday night when they faced the Manchester University Spartans in a losing match. The Belles put up a fight, but the Spartans ultimately defeated them in a three-set sweep.

The first set opened up with an early Manchester lead, with Saint Mary’s trailing behind, occasionally tightening the gap in points. The Spartans took the score from 6-4 to 10-4 with a four-point scoring streak. And while kills from junior outside hitter Colleen McCarthy, freshman right side Mia Shields, and freshman outside hitter Grace Braselton, as well as a few service errors from the Spartans, gave SMC a four-point streak shortly after that, the score remained at 11-9 with the Belles behind.

The set continued on with a number of scoring streaks from Manchester. They even took an 18-11 lead at one point in the set. An outstanding performance from McCarthy, however, brought the Belles a number of points. Four consecutive McCarthy kills brought the score to 21-18. While a catch-up was in sight for the Belles, the team lost the first set, 25-21.

Set two of the night saw Manchester running on a high with their scoring, springing to a 10-2 lead. The Spartans kept up that large lead for the duration of the first half of the set. But once the score reached 19-9, the Belles ramped up their competitiveness. Saint Mary’s went on a 7-0 scoring run, filled by kills from the same trio as the first set: McCarthy, Shields and Braselton. The Belles tightened the score at 19-16. But then they lost possession of the ball. The second set ended in the second SMC loss of the night with a 25-19 score.

SMC took the first point of the third set, setting hopes high, but while they kept the lead at a 2-3 score, they then lost the lead to Manchester, who quickly gained a 9-4 edge. Saint Mary’s had a tough time closing the gap in this set. By the time the score was at 19-7 in the Spartans’ favor, the set seemed like an easy win for Manchester. The Belles, however, made an effort to close that gap with a 9-3 point run, getting them up to 22-16. But the Spartans quickly ended the third and final set with a score of 25-17.

The Belles have faced a tough season this fall with a disappointing 3-9 record. Head coach Denise Van De Walle mentioned in post-match interviews the struggle the team has been facing. The inexperience of the team, which has a large roster of underclassmen and transfers, has been a challenge. But the streak of losses that have kept their morale down since their last win on Sept. 3 against Defiance stings, too.

The Belles host the fourth game in a string of home games this Saturday, Oct. 1 against North Park.

Contact Lucia Aguzzi at laguzzi@nd.edu.

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Irish volleyball falters in Florida, drops two ACC matches

The Irish opened their ACC conference play for the 2022-2023 season on Friday after traveling south to the Sunshine State for matches with Florida State and Miami. Despite a host of extremely tight sets, the Irish dropped both matchups on the weekend.

The team started ACC play by making their way to Tallahassee with a 5-5 record and new coach Salima Rockwell ready for the conference opener. 

The Irish saw the first set begin with a battle to get a lead on the Seminoles, trading possession until the score was 11-11. Notre Dame then fell behind to a score of 16-11. The Irish closed to 16-14 with two aces from freshman defensive specialist Maisie Alexander, giving the Rockwell’s squad hope for a comeback. FSU, however, then broke off a 7-1 run to take control at 23-15. While the Irish were able to score five more points, the set ended in a 25-20 Florida State win. 

The second set didn’t bring much success for the Irish with the Seminoles holding onto the lead for the entirety of the set. While the point gap was small at the beginning of the set, with just a couple of points separating the teams, the competition escalated to the point where Florida State led 23-11. Kills from sophomore setter Phyona Schrader and sophomore outside hitter Paris Thompson, combined with blocks from the Irish got them some more points on the scoreboard, but ultimately they conceded the set to FSU with a 25-18 score. 

While the beginning of the third set had Notre Dame scoring the first three points consecutively, the Seminoles quickly caught up and secured a 5-4 lead. The set continued with the Florida State lead, but the Irish trailed closely behind for a few more plays. The Seminoles finally opened up a five-point gap at a 12-7 score. The Irish were unable to catch up for the remainder of the set, losing to the Seminoles 25-17. The match was a three-set sweep for Florida State. 

The Irish, however, ventured farther south to Miami for their second match of the conference season against the University of Miami Hurricanes. The game was a battle between both teams, who both lost their conference opener and went to five sets. 

The first two sets gave Miami the two wins they needed to get a lead on Notre Dame, with the score for the first set ending in a 25-13 defeat of the Irish. While the Irish were able to close up the Hurricanes’ early lead and tied them at 6-6, Miami ripped off an 8-2 run and was able to get the lead for the remainder of the set. The second set had a similar result, with the Irish trailing behind early on, closing the gap to a two-point separation at 8-6 but ultimately conceding to Miami in a 25-12 final score.  

Notre Dame seemed to ramp up the aggression and play in set three of the match, however, getting an early lead against Miami, quickly setting the score to 7-3. Miami nearly caught up at 9-8, but the Irish kept the narrow lead. Miami eventually tied it at 17-17, but the rally didn’t last. Two kills from freshman outside hitter Avery Ross kept the Irish ahead on the scoreboard, and a combination of blocks and one kill each from graduate student Kaylyn Winkler and freshman Lucy Trump set up the Irish to stay alive. They won the 3rd set with an ace by junior libero Hattie Monson, with a final score of 25-20.

The Irish also won the fourth set in a close battle, with the final score going over the usual 25 points, ending in a 26-28 win for the Irish. The majority of the set had the Hurricanes in the lead, getting the scoreboard to 23-16, but the Irish blitzed their way to a seven-point streak and eventually tied Miami at 24-24. After the set rolled bast the 25-point threshold, Notre Dame secured the win with a final kill from Schrader. 

The game went on to a tough 5th set, with a tied score of 8-8. However, the Hurricanes prevailed, delivering a heartbreaking loss for the Irish, 15-13. The Notre Dame volleyball team now has a 5-7 season record, and an 0-2 ACC record to kick off their conference slate.

The Irish play No. 13 Georgia Tech at home on Friday, for their third game of the conference season.

Contact Lucia at laguzzi@nd.edu

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Belles lose five-set heartbreaker to Kalamazoo

The Saint Mary’s Belles hosted their second home game of the season this week, facing the Kalamazoo Hornets in a tough match on Tuesday evening. Prior to the start of the game, the ladies on both teams put green ribbons in their hair and laces in support of Mental Health Awareness on college campuses. 

The first set saw Kalamazoo get an early lead with an aggressive offense, racking up 11 points in the first few minutes to the Belle’s four. The set continued with a stressful back-and-forth, with Saint Mary’s gaining possession of the ball but being unable to keep it for more than one or two serves. Faults on the Hornets’ offense, however, opened the window for SMC to close the gap with a few kills from junior outside hitter Colleen McCarthy and bring the score to 17-15 Kalamazoo. The Belles were unable to keep up the scoring streak and lost the first set 25-21. 

Saint Mary’s turned the tables on the Hornets during the second set of the match though, scoring the first few points and quickly getting into a steady lead after Kalamazoo scored on them. The Belles kept that lead for the majority of the game, with two scoring streaks in the set while freshman hitter Mia Shields served the ball. They were able to create a large gap in points, leading by eight at multiple times in the set. The set ended 15-25 for an SMC win. 

The third set gave the Belles their second set win of the night, with another 13-21 lead against the Hornets. Sophomore outside hitter Cali Allen scored five points for the team with kills in the third set, assisted by Shields (two kills)  and McCarthy (three kills). Saint Mary’s was able to pass Kalamazoo’s early lead with sophomore middle hitter Shay Theile serving a five-point streak. Theile just got back on the court after a 2 week leave due to a concussion. SMC won the third set 19-25. 

The fourth set brought on a stressful energy for both teams, keeping them on their toes and never allowing for more than a three-point lead for either of them. The Hornets emerged victorious after a 29-27 win. The fifth set brought on a similar play, with the beginning a close match, eventually leading to a Kalamazoo win 15-10. 

“It’s what we do in the matches that’s hurting us,” said Head Coach Denise Van De Walle after the game. “Our practice and skill level is pretty solid, but right now I think being as young as we are we don’t have the experience in how to close out a match.”

The current team is made up of 8 underclassmen, 6 being freshmen. Van De Walle added, “Our first years are very good, they just don’t have experience at the college level, and it’s different than high school and club. Even coming from a high-level club, this is still way different because the players they’re playing against could be anywhere from 18 to 23.”

For Van De Walle, the team’s weakness is in their experience and newness to the team. “Their team chemistry is outstanding. They really love each other, they’re a close-knit team, which should translate into being able to hold each other accountable… [but] they don’t, they’re still afraid to say the wrong thing.” 

The Belles have had multiple losses in the 4th and 5th sets recently, and Van De Walle says that in those moments she reminds the team that  “We’re playing for the match, not just the set. Play hard, play swing, don’t play safe…they don’t have that confidence yet and it’s because I’m playing a lot of young, or new, people. They’re all talented, but they don’t have the experience to know how to close out a win. We don’t know how to finish yet.” 

As for today’s loss, she’s disappointed by the result. “In my opinion, looking at them, they were scared. Instead of playing to win, they were thinking ‘Oh my gosh, we might lose’, so they played safe. We needed to be ultra-competitive during that, and we played safe, and lost.” 

At the end, she adds, “Our future is good, but what we’ve gotta do right now is just continue to play and not lose confidence, and that’s hard to do when you’re getting beat… the more you lose, it’s hard to rebound until you get that win. You have to taste a win somewhere along the line.” 

The Belles host their next game at home against Calvin this Saturday, September 24th. 

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Belles soccer drops pair of games on road

The Saint Mary’s Belles traveled to southern Indiana on Friday to face Hanover College in a tough match, ultimately conceding in a 1-0 game against the Panthers. This marked the team’s second loss of the season, putting them at a 0-2-2 overall record. 

The game was even more proof of the offensive struggle the Belles have been facing since the beginning of the season. The defense, however, was on their toes throughout the match, with sophomore goalkeeper Riley Lindsey making 20 saves, the first time in nearly 20 years that an SMC goalkeeper has done so.

Hanover was able to amount 21 shots on goal, while Saint Mary’s was only able to put 3 on goal. After a little over 50 scoreless minutes, Kenna Patterson of the Panthers gave Hanover the winning goal, and the Belles were unable to catch up during the remaining time. 

The Belles stayed in central Indiana over the weekend, facing the DePauw Tigers in Greencastle on Sunday.  The match started off competitively and DePauw tested the Saint Mary’s defensive line throughout the first half, but the Belles successfully kept the ball out of their own goal for the majority of the match. 

In the 85th minute, Saint Mary’s freshman Felicity Matthews scored the first goal of the match, her first collegiate goal, putting the Belles up 1-0. The lead was short-lived, however, as the Tigers scored and tied the game less than a minute later, and quickly scored another goal to end the game 2-1 for a DePauw victory. The second loss of the weekend dropped the Belles’ record to 0-3-2. 

Sunday’s match marked the third this season in which the Belles have scored first but ended up tied or on the losing end.

“I can’t ask for more from the girls on the defensive side, as I believe they are doing an outstanding job, we are getting very unlucky this season with goals conceded,” head coach Farkhod Kurbonov said. “We will keep working on perfecting our shape and game plan.” 

The team has scored three goals total this season, two of which have been scored by senior Jillian Bowen. “Jillian is a fantastic player and the leader of this team on and off the field. [She will be} soon joining the University of Notre Dame for the School of Engineering,” Kurbonov said. “During practices and film sessions, we are working on exploring other areas to score from, also we are happy to have some of our attacking girls back after their injuries this coming week.” 

Saint Mary’s will be hosting their next three matches, starting off against Franklin on Thursday, Sept. 15.