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Belles fall again in convincing defeat to Albion

Last night Saint Mary’s basketball dropped their third consecutive game, falling 88-44 on the road to Albion.

Sophomore forward Julia Schutz and senior guard Maddie Rzepka paced the Belles, combining for over half of the team’s points with 13 and 10, respectively. Schutz also led the squad in assists with three and finished second on the team in rebounds with five. Junior forward Athena Samson led the way on the boards for Saint Mary’s, grabbing ten rebounds in the loss.

A balanced scoring effort paved the way for the Britons to take home the victory. Four of Albion’s five starters chipped in with nine or more points. In total, 12 different players managed to get on the scoresheet for the Britons. Albion also received three different eight-plus point performances off the bench.

The backcourt combination of Lolo Reed and Riley Davis did the most damage for Albion, with both recording a team-high 12 points. Elena Welker and Cierra Cole served as the primary creative forces for the Britons, each dishing a game-high five assists. The Belles had no answer for Albion center Daniah Beavers down low, with Beavers pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds. Beavers currently stands third in the MIAA for rebounds per game with 10.2.

The loss drops Saint Mary’s to 3-4 and 0-1 in conference play on the year. But a stretch of three games over the next week looms as a major chance for the Belles to get their season back on track. That stretch includes a game against Adrian and Calvin, both of which are currently tied with Saint Marys at the bottom of conference standings with a 0-1 record. The Belles will also play a “road” game when they take on Holy Cross in South Bend.

Expect the Belles to continue to lean on the trio of Schutz, Rzepka and Samson as they look for their first conference win. The trio are all averaging double digits in points per game. Samson and Schutz have also both proved to be indispensable on the boards. Both rank among the conference’s top-five in rebounds per game.

Saint Mary’s basketball will be back in action this weekend on Saturday at home against Adrian College. The Bulldogs are 3-3 overall on the season, but are 0-1 in conference play. The game will tip off at 3 p.m.

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Sports

Belles split pair of nonconference games

On Thursday and Sunday, the Saint Mary’s basketball team split a pair of non-conference games, ultimately moving to 3-2 on the season. The Belles slammed Illinois Tech 82-66 on Thursday night but lost to Defiance 70-60 on Sunday. 

The Belles rebounded from their first loss of the season and rode a dominant middle two quarters Thursday night. Down 20-14 after 10 minutes, Saint Mary’s outscored the Scarlet Hawks 52-29 in the second and third quarters. Senior guard Maddie Rzepka led the squad with 18 points, while freshman guard Nicole Connelly came off the bench to drop 15 points. Saint Mary’s won the game on the boards, out-rebounding Illinois Tech 60-37. Junior forwards Athena Samson and Anne Goralczyk combined for 26 rebounds. Samson added 12 points for the double-double.

The Belles took the lead for good late in the second quarter. After Illinois Tech tied the game at 27-27, both teams entered a dry spell. Neither team scored for 2 minutes and 27 seconds. But with 3:52 remaining, Goralczyk sank a jump shot, and Saint Mary’s ripped off 10 straight points. That helped grant the Belles a 37-29 halftime advantage. The Scarlet Hawks closed within 43-41 in the second half, but another late-quarter surge helped the Belles put the game away. Over a 2:07 stretch, Saint Mary’s notched another 10-0 run to extend their lead to 64-46. Illinois Tech never challenged again, as the Belles improved to 3-1.

On Sunday, the Belles couldn’t quite pull off their fourth win in five games. Up two at halftime, a paltry shooting performance doomed Saint Mary’s in the 10-point loss. Samson added another double-double, going for 14 points and 13 rebounds in the contest. Sophomore forward Julia Schutz joined the double-double party with a monster performance, pouring in 18 points and grabbing 12 boards. She also blocked three shots. However, a 5-31 shooting effort from three-point range contributed to an poor overall 30.4% shooting percentage, a level of offensive inefficiency too much to overcome.

The Belles maintained a slim advantage throughout the first 2.5 quarters, extending their lead to 42-36 just under halfway through the third quarter. However, Taylor Steinbrunner made a pair of triples in a 27-second span to knto the score. The Yellow Jackets added a few more baskets to end the period on a 12-2 scoring run and take a 48-42 advantage. Saint Mary’s didn’t score for the final 5 minutes and 24 seconds of the quarter.

In the final 10 minutes, the Belles never got closer than four points, trailing by about ten most of the way. A brief surge brought them to a 59-54 deficit with 2:29 left, but that was as close as it got. Saint Mary’s succumbed, 70-60.

The Belles play Tuesday night at 7 p.m. against Anderson in a non-conference game. They start conference play after Thanksgiving.

Contact Aidan Thomas at athoma28@nd.edu.

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Sports

Belles fall short, lose to Wheaton 76-68

On the road, the Saint Mary’s basketball team dropped their first game of the season, falling 76-68 to the Wheaton Thunder. A slow defensive start put the Belles behind the eight-ball, trailing for the entirety of the final three quarters. 

Senior guard Maddie Rzepka led the way with 19 points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Elle Deardorff added 14 points on 3-6 shooting from beyond the arc. Her three triples equaled half of Saint Mary’s total, as the Belles shot just 36.5% from the field. They were 6-18 from three-point range. On the flip side, the Thunder shot 44.8% and outrebounded the Belles 42-36. They also got 21 points from their bench, sparked by a 3-5 three-point shooting effort from Anna Fernandez. The Thunder shot just 11-23 from the free throw line and 5-19 from distance, but their defensive pressure made up for offensive inconsistencies. They notched 16 steals and eight blocks in the contest. 

In a high-scoring first quarter, the Belles traded punches with their hosts, but they couldn’t quite match Wheaton’s 26-point period and trailed 26-21 at the break. There were several lead changes in that first ten minutes, but Fernandez drilled a triple with 1:13 remaining to give Wheaton a 22-19 advantage. The Belles never led again in the game. 

Inconsistent offense plagues Belles

Part of that could be attributed to a significant slump in the second quarter. The Belles went eight minutes and 19 seconds without notching a field goal. However, Wheaton also struggled during this stretch and scored just 12 points in the quarter. That kept Saint Mary’s in the game, trailing just 38-29 at halftime. 

The Belles clawed back in the third quarter. After going down by 13, the Belles broke off a 10-2 run to get back within five at 52-47. Rzepka’s three-ball punctuated the run. Saint Mary’s briefly got within a possession at 55-52 and trailed by four heading into the final quarter. However, the comeback was not to be. The Thunder dominated the early portion of the quarter, ballooning their advantage to 69-55 with under five minutes to play. The Belles cut it back to 71-66 with an 11-2 run, but that was as close as it got. Five straight points from Wheaton ended any faint rally hopes, as the Thunder secured the eight-point victory. 

The Belles fall to 2-1 and will look to rebound on Thursday. They host Illinois Tech at 7 p.m.

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Sports

Belles open their season, hope to better their record

As the winter sports season approaches, Saint Mary’s athletic spotlight will be falling on the basketball team, as they are the only sport in this season. The team will be returning to the court led by head coach Melissa Makielski, who has been the head coach of Belles basketball since the fall of 2016. The rest of the coaching staff will consist of returning assistant coach Hannah Marko, joined by new assistant coach Mark Smith. 

The team as a whole looks promising chemistry-wise, with a total of 10 returning players. Returning captains, and now seniors, guards Maddie Rzepka and Nikki Murphy will be the leaders on the team consisting of eight upperclassmen. Rzepka was the leader in points for the Belles’ last season (207) while Murphy led the team with 56 assists. Junior transfer forward Athena Samson, who previously played on Albion College’s team, will be joining the squad to add some new talent to the team. Incoming freshman guards Alyssa Matuza and Nicole Connolly will be joining as new additions to complete the 13 player roster for the season. 

The Belles will be picking up from an unfortunate 6-20 record in the 2021-2022 season. Saint Mary’s, just as every other NCAA team, has struggled to regain their footing post the canceled 2020-2021 season. The team will, however, be kicking off the season with six home games out of their first eight. 

The home court advantage will be present at their first game of the season on Wednesday, Nov. 9 against the North Central College Cardinals. The Cardinals also did not have the most successful season last year as they went 9-17. However, one of those wins came against the Belles, also in South Bend as their season opener. 

But, the Belles look to make a change from last season with their new players, as well as their seniors. The Belles open their season at home in the Angela Athletic Complex on Wednesday. The game tips off at 7 p.m. EST. 

Contact Lucia Aguzzi at laguzzi@nd.edu