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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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Sports

Belles unable to obtain first win of season

The Saint Mary’s soccer team played two home matches over the weekend. Although they opened the weekend with a 3-0 loss to Franklin, the Belles were able to salvage the weekend with a 2-2 tie to Lake Forest. The Belles, 0-4-3, are approaching the mid-way point of the season looking for their first win of the year.

Despite the score against the Grizzlies, the Belles were able to hold the ball for a good portion of the first half. The first shot was only seven minutes into the game, by sophomore midfielder Izzi Linus.

There would be two shots on goal for the Belles, by sophomore midfielder Grace Barresi and sophomore forward Mary Kaczynski, before Franklin would have a chance. In the first half alone, there would be ten Saint Mary’s shots to Franklin’s one. And, by the end of the first half, the score was still tied 0-0. 

Quickly into the second half, however, Grizzly Jaiden Baker found the back of the net, and kickstarted the momentum needed for a Franklin win. Again in the second half, the Belles outshot the Grizzlies eight to seven. But, the shots do not matter unless they can make their way past the goalie and into the net and the Belles failed to execute on this front. Franklin was able to add another goal to the score in the 65th minute. 

While the Belles fought to at least earn a point, the clock ticked down. With less than three minutes to go, Franklin scored again, securing their 3-0 victory over the Belles. 

Only two days later, on Sept. 15, the Belles were back at home facing Lake Forest. Unlike in their battle against the Grizzlies, the Belles did not hold the momentum in the first half against the Bears. Although Saint Mary’s ultimately had the first couple shots, Lake Forest would answer back almost immediately. For a majority of the first half, possession was switched frequently between the two teams. This was until Lake Forest’s Anna Hoffman scored off of an assist from Caitlin Mulcahy. Now with a 1-0 lead, the Bears did not allow another shot from the Belles for the remainder of the half. 

The second half opened up with a shot from the Bears, and a save from sophomore goalkeeper Kara Stacey. Stacey totalled four saves in the first half, and two in the second. For a majority of the second half, the Belles and the Bears went back and forth. It wasn’t until the 79th minute that another Lake Forest player Paityn Tabor scored. Unlike Thursday’s game, however, the Belles were not willing to let them keep their lead. 

Only two minutes later, freshman midfielder Felicity Matthews found the back of the net assisted by Barresi. The Belles were inspired by their last goal, and less than two minutes after their first, junior forward Kaitlyn Day tied the score. However, there ultimately was not enough time for the Belles to score again, and they were left with another tie on their record.

The Belles look to turn their luck as they finish off a series of home games on Wednesday against Anderson. The two teams will face off with the match starting at 7 p.m.

Contact Olivia at oschatz@nd.edu

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Sports

Belles look for first season victory against Aurora

The Saint Mary’s Belles women’s soccer team will search for their first win of the nascent season Wednesday, in their road contest against the Aurora University Spartans. 

Last season, the Belles were 2-0 with six goals scored heading into Aurora, and they then continued their success with a convincing 2-0 victory. This year, they are 0-1-1, with just a single goal through two non-conference games.

The lack of production from a relatively young starting lineup is not for a lack of trying. However, the Belles have registered an alarming 23 shots on goal through their first two matches, an average of 11.5 per game. As a group, the team is shooting at 4.3% (1/23), a number the Belles will likely need to improve if they want a winning record. The slump also coincides with their dry stretch on corner kicks, as the Belles are 0/11 in total.

Saint Mary’s lone goal scorer right now is senior forward Jillian Bowen. She delivered a strike from 20 yards out in the minute 28 against Concordia University of Chicago, assisted by junior defender Holly Skrip.

On the other side, Aurora University will also be looking for its first win of the season after stumbling to their own 0-1-1 start. The Spartans have yet to muster a single goal in their first two games, losing 1-0 to North Central and tying North Park University 0-0. Their goalkeeper, Kelsey Deck, has been busy, making 18 saves and allowing just a single goal past her in the early stages of the 2022-23 campaign.

Offensively, the Spartans will turn to senior midfielder Jessica Mirsky. Mirsky leads the club with three shots through two games, and she is the only player on the roster with multiple shots thus far.

The Spartans are led by two freshman forwards: Sydney Kranick and Emma Dyer. Together, they have more than 100 total minutes and have combined their stats for just two shots and one on goal.

Both the Saint Mary’s Belles and the Aurora Spartans will look to shed their early-season scoring woes at 8 p.m. Eastern kick off, as the sqauds search for their first win of the season.

Charlie Morris


Contact Charlie at cmorri27@nd.edu