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State of the Belles

Most of Saint Mary’s sports saw a young team take over last year’s program. The fall sports are coming up on conference championships and only one of the Belles’ programs will head to the postseason.

Saint Mary’s cross country

Saint Mary’s cross country lost a significant number of runners before this season. Regardless, the team hoped to improve upon a 22nd-place NCAA tournament mark behind junior Amanda Tracy as they moved through the season. 

The Belles started the season strong at the Calvin invitational placing sixth out of 12 teams. Tracy led the Belles placing 31st and running a 24:39 (five seconds short of her 2021 personal record). Ultimately, Tracy has surpassed her personal record, running a 24:19.1 race at the Oberlin Inter-Regional Rumble, her most recent race. 

In their two most recent races, the Belles have been on the uptick. Against 36 teams, the Belles placed 29th at a DIII preview meet at Olivet College. Two weeks later the Belles arrived at the Rumble and placed 22nd against 33 teams and saw several personal records and season bests. 

As the Belles head into MIAA Conference Championship races on Friday, they’ll look to continue to set personal records and move up in the placements.

Saint Mary’s soccer 

Saint Mary’s soccer has yet to garner a win this season as the Belles are 0-7-1 at home and 0-5-2 away. The back line has been a strong wall but the Belles have lacked on the scoring front. In 15 games, the Belles have scored in just six of those, never scoring more than twice. Three of their scoring games ultimately resulted in a tie. 

While students were away from campus, the Belles dropped three games, getting outscored 6-2 in the process.

While the Belles are no longer in contention for the conference tournament, the last game of their season is Wednesday against Hope. The Thunder are 8-4-2 but the Belles will look to upset Hope and take home their first win of the season. As a young team still working out the kinks, the Belles will look to return stronger next season as conference championship play begins. 

Saint Mary’s volleyball

Saint Mary’s volleyball opened the season 3-1 before an intense 13-game losing streak derailed the Belles’ season. 

The Belles did, however, pick up two more wins during Fall Break, both of them at home. Against the Beloit Blue Devils, the Belles swept in their Pink Out Match on Oct. 14. Then, on Oct. 18, the Belles took down Olivet in a tight 3-2 match. Although they’re sitting outside the conference championship bracket, Saint Mary’s will look to get their first road win of the season against Adrian on Wednesday. 

Then, the Belles will celebrate Senior Day and close their season against Albion at home on Oct. 29, hoping to carry a little momentum into the 2023 season.

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Belles stifled by Thunder in conference loss

In three sets of action Saturday evening, the Saint Mary Belles’ volleyball squad led just once against the Trine Thunder, falling 3-0 in their 12th straight defeat. The final score was 17-25, 23-25, 17-25. The Belles kept things close throughout and recorded some hot stretches to challenge the Thunder. But outside of a 1-0 lead in the third set, they never surpassed the hosts on the scoreboard during the contest. Junior outside hitter Colleen McCarthy and freshman rightside hitter Mia Shields led the Belles with 13 kills apiece.

In the first set, the name of the game was unforced errors. The Belles matched the Thunder with 11 kills apiece. However, they also recorded 10 attacking errors. Their hitting percentage sat at .023 through one set, and their offensive inconsistency allowed Trine to seize control. The Belles battled back from an early 9-3 deficit with six straight points, spearheaded by a pair of McCarthy kills.

However, Trine quickly notched the next four points and 10 of the next 13 to take a commanding 19-12 advantage. Saint Mary’s didn’t get closer than 22-17, and Trine scored the final three points to claim the first set.

The second set was a more even affair as the Belles tied the score on six occasions after the set began. Then, with the score knotted up at 12 points apiece, Trine drilled home a pair of kills, taking a two-point lead they wouldn’t relinquish. After trading points for a bit, the Thunder gradually stretched their advantage to a set-high four points at 21-17.

The Belles fought back, however, to push Trine to the limit. Down 24-21, Saint Mary’s notched a couple of points to get back within one. Freshman outside hitter Delaney Martin hammered a kill to make it 24-23. However, Trine replied with a clean win on their third set point opportunity to take the 2-0 advantage.

The third set started to get out of control pretty quickly for the Belles. After taking their first lead of the game via a Trine attacking error, the Belles surrendered a 5-0 run. Trine ultimately blitzed the visitors for an 8-1 lead, forcing a Belles’ timeout with the score sitting at 8-2.

Saint Mary’s looked far more composed after that timeout, as four different Belles garnered kills in a four-point spurt, eventually closing the gap to 13-12. But they would get no closer. Trine claimed six of the next eight points to essentially ice the result, going up 19-13. The Belles never got closer than five points again, and Trine clinched the game with a service ace for the 25-17 three-set victory.

The loss marks Saint Mary’s 12th-straight, including an 0-4 start to MIAA play. On Sept. 20, they led Kalamazoo 2-1, and since then, the Belles have lost 17 straight sets. They have a prime chance to break their streak Wednesday, when they pay a visit to Alma College, the other winless team in the conference. Alma is 0-5 in MIAA play and their 2-14 record is a game worse than the Belles’ 3-13 mark. That game starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday before Saint Mary’s returns home for two games.

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Belles volleyball falls 3-0 against Hope

Saint Mary’s volleyball lost three sets to none in a conference match-up on the road against No. 14 Hope College. Belles head coach Denise Van De Walle was straight-forward about the outcome of the contest.

“So, tonight was a tough match,” Van De Walle said. “Hope is very physical. They hit the ball well, and they had a good night against us.”

Van De Walle pointed toward the Flying Dutch’s above .300 hitting percentage, the telling statistic as to how the night went for the Belles.

“I mean, as a team, they hit .312 which is really high for a team,” Van De Walle said.

The match’s first set, the closest of the night, saw an 8-1 Belles run early on.

“We started out in set one and we were neck and neck. I mean, it was a great set to about 15 points,” Van De Walle said. “Then they kind of took over, we lost 25-19 and it was a good game.”

The Belles went on to drop the second and third sets by scores of 25-16 and 25-13, as Hope was more physical at the net. After the game, Van De Walle spoke with her players about some of the areas that needed improvement.

“We know that when we come in to practice tomorrow, it’s a new day, and we need to be ready to work on some of the things that are causing us to fall short. We need to be able to kill more
balls, we need to be able to dig more balls and that’s where our focus will be,” Van De Walle said.

She stressed a process of improvement that doesn’t need be tied to the win-loss column.

“But I also have been talking to them a lot about ‘let’s not put the focus on winning. Let’s put the focus on getting better.’ I want each one of our players to get better and then see what the outcome is by the end of the season,” she said.

The 14-member Belles volleyball squad is a young team still looking to get their feet out under them with six new freshmen and a sophomore transfer. The 3-12 Belles have now lost 11 games in a row. Van De Walle acknowledged that it has been a tough stretch for the team.

“But when you’re still eager to get better, it’s easy to come in the gym and that’s what I want them to be, just focusing on getting better. Better first touch, better swing on the ball, better setting, better defense and see what that translates to by the end of the year because we’re halfway there. We’re halfway done,” Van De Walle said.

Next up for the Belles is a road rematch against Trine on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Contact Peter Breen at pbreen2@nd.edu

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Belles volleyball lose tenth straight, fall to North Park

Woes continued for the Saint Mary’s volleyball squad this weekend, as they faced another highly regarded opponent. North Park came to town after receiving votes in the most recent national polls, and they swept the Belles in three consecutive sets. Saint Mary’s has now lost eleven straight sets dating back to Sept. 20. They fell to 3-10 and 0-2 in MIAA play.

Saint Mary’s got off to a solid start in the first set, leading for much of the early portions of the game. Junior outside hitter Colleen McCarthy delivered one of her team-leading nine kills to give the Belles a 9-8 lead in the first set, but that was as good as it got. North Park ripped off seven straight points to take a commanding lead. The Belles remained within striking range, down 18-14 a few minutes later. But then North Park notched another 7-0 run, cementing a smooth 25-14 first set victory.

In the second set, again, Saint Mary’s led in the early going. They went up 11-10 after a North Park service error. However, the visitors claimed seven of the next eight points to take the 17-13 advantage. McCarthy nearly rallied the Belles back into this one, with a kill and a service ace sparking a quick three-point spurt. That brought the Belles to within 22-20, but North Park closed out the set by scoring the final three points.

The third set was less competitive, as Saint Mary’s final lead was 6-5. North Park blitzed the Belles for four straight points, and then a few points later, they replicated the feat to take a 16-10 lead. The Belles couldn’t string together consecutive points for the rest of the set, and one final 5-0 spurt for North Park clinched the result. The Belles lost the final set, 25-14.

Despite the loss, McCarthy put together another solid performance with her nine kills and nine digs. She also delivered the team’s only two service aces. Senior libero Emma Watford added 11 digs.

The Belles now head on the road for three games, starting with a conference clash against Hope on Tuesday night. The game starts at 7 p.m.

Contact Aidan Thomas at athoma28@nd.edu

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Saint Mary’s volleyball drops three sets against No. 5 Calvin

Despite dropping three sets on Saturday against No. 5 Calvin, the Saint Mary’s volleyball team was closing to breaking their seven-game losing streak. 

The match opened up with the Belles and Knights equally fighting for control. Throughout the course of the set, no team had a lead greater than two points. While the Knights won the opening point, the Belles fired back right away. This back and forth continued throughout the entire game.

With the Belles down 20-18, junior outside hitter Colleen McCarthy scored to start the slight comeback. McCarthy currently leads the team with 177 kills on the season, and 413 total in her two years. Later, McCarthy delivered an ace before sophomore outside hitter Cali Allen tied the set with a kill. This would be the last time the Belles had a tie in the set, as the Knights were able to eventually win, 25-23. 

The next set started out with the Belles taking a quick lead. With McCarthy leading the effort, the Belles were able to pull ahead 5-1. However, this would not last long, and the Knights went on a 10-2 run to pull their lead to 11-7. Unlike the first set, the Knights held onto a significant lead for the remainder of the set. The Knights eventually took a commanding 21-12 lead.

Even with this gap, the Belles did not stop fighting. With a series of blocks from sophomore middle hitter Shay Theile, freshman right side Mia Shields and McCarthy, as well as an ace from senior left back Emma Watford, and kills from both Shields and Allen, the Belles closed the gap to 22-17. This would however be the last time the Belles would score, and the Knights pushed their way to a 25-17 win. 

The third set was not as close for the Belles. The conference foes split the opening points. This would be the last time the teams were tied. Calvin edged ahead 7-5, as Saint Mary’s stayed close in the early going. However, the Knights ripped off a 9-0 run. That put Calvin firmly in control, and the Knights extended that advantage to 24-9. The Belles put up stiff resistance late, and Shields put up two points in a row (a kill and an ace.) Allen also scored a point to bring the score to 24-13. However, the Knights scored one last time finalizing their win. 

Opening up MIAA play, Saint Mary’s had a tough challenge. Calvin currently has a 9-3 record compared to the Belles’ 3-9 one. While they ultimately dropped all three sets, the Belles fought hard throughout the match. McCarthy led the team with kills on the night (11) followed by Allen and Shields with six apiece. McCarthy also earned eight digs on the night, only second to Watford’s 10.

The Belles look to break their losing streak with another home game on Wednesday at 7 p.m. EDT. Saint Mary’s will face Manchester, another team with a winning record (9-6). 

Contact Olivia at oschatz@nd.edu

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Belles volleyball win three of four on opening weekend

The Saint Mary’s volleyball squad got their season off to a hot start this past weekend, winning three of their four contests. The Belles gained a lot of experience in close matches, battling three opponents to five sets, and winning another in four sets. Ultimately, Saint Mary’s split a pair of five-setters on Friday, beating Bluffton and falling to Capital. On Saturday, the Belles toppled Waynesburg in four sets and Defiance in five. 

Starting off their 2022 campaign against Bluffton, Saint Mary’s showed strong resolve in garnering their first victory of the season. They dropped the first two sets, 26-28 and 21-25. In a gritty and lengthy battle, however, the Belles worked their way back. They claimed the third set 25-20, and needed an extra point to seal the fourth set at 26-24. Then, in the match finale, Saint Mary’s eked out the clinching set victory, toppling Bluffton 15-12. 

However, in the second game of the day, Saint Mary’s fell victim to a similar comeback. Against Capital, the Belles got off to the hot start, winning 26-24 and 25-23. However, Capital rallied in dominant fashion. They took set 3, 25-14, and the fourth by a 25-17 margin. That led to a winners-take-all fifth set, and the Belles couldn’t find their mojo. They lost 15-10 in the decisive set. 

On day two, there would be no splits for the Belles. Saint Mary’s won six of their nine sets on the day, winning both matches. Facing Waynesburg, the Belles split the first two sets. But after a close first half of the match, Saint Mary’s pulled away, winning the last two sets by eight and nine point margins to claim a stress-free victory. In the weekend finale, Saint Mary’s delivered yet another comeback victory, dispatching of Defiance in five sets. 

Now, battle-tested after a tough but largely successful weekend, Saint Mary’s returns home for a big-time clash against Trine. Although the game won’t count in the conference standings, the clash represents a big measuring stick moment for the Belles. Trine claimed the fourth and final spot in the conference tournament last season, so they provide a good comparison for what it’ll take to vault the Belles into postseason contention. They will compete in their season opener, playing at the Angela Athletic and Wellness Complex at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.