Upsets earlier in season make Belles marked opponent
By: KATIE McVOY
Associate Sports Editor
At the beginning of the season, they were a nameless team that belonged to "that all women's college somewhere in Indiana".
But today they are marked.
Today teams will be looking to beat them, hoping for revenge from losses earlier this season. Today they will head into a championship event with hopes set much higher than last place.
The Belles, who started off the season at the bottom of the pack in the MIAA, will head into this weekend's MIAA tournament with a new confidence after defeating three MIAA opponents this season. But with the confidence of those wins also brought a loss with it — a loss of the element of surprise.
"I think the biggest thing is, the women now understand, especially after the second win, in a way, there's not element of surprising anyone anymore," said head coach Greg Petcoff. "So while they have confidence, we've talked about the fact that everyone now understands that with Saint Mary's it's going to be a little bit of a battle."
Earlier this season, Saint Mary's defeated Albion, Olivet and Kalamazoo. Heading into the tournament, which starts today at 10 a.m., the Belles will have their sights set on outswimming Kalamazoo, Albion and Alma.
"I'd say I'd love to see us finish third, but it is so tight between Alma, Albion, Kalamazoo and us," Petcoff said. "Alma beat us. We beat Albion and Albion beat Alma, so we could finish sixth or we could finish third."
While the Belles have some solid competitors for top spots in several events, the strength the team needs to take home a third place finish will come from the fifth through 12th swimmers. With such tight competition between the four schools competing for four spots, how low all the team's swimmers, not just the stars, can finish is key.
"The big battle is what's happening in places five, six, seven through twelve," Petcoff said. "Take the rest of the roster, we need them. You know who your stars are, but it's your unsung stars that set things up."
If the battle could be won in places five through 12, some top finishes couldn't hurt either. In addition to helping their team to a top three finish, the Belles' strongest swimmers could also find themselves in a place where they would qualify to compete in the nationals competition in March.
Junior Lauren Smith, with a few seconds knocked off her time, could take home a first place finish and a bid for nationals in the 200-meter breaststroke.
"I think Lauren Smith has a shot in the 200 breaststroke," Petcoff said. "She needs time to drop, but I've seem time drops from tapers of four seconds."
The class of 2004 will also send in two threats this weekend. Megan Ramsey and Maureen Palchak could also find themselves as champions by the end of the three-day meet on Saturday. Palchak has a chance to win in her sprint events, but Ramsey is really the most likely to finish in a top spot.
"I think Meg Ramsey has a very legitimate shot, if not two, possibly even three, in the 500 free and both butterfly events," Petcoff said.
Wednesday night the team had a chance to get into the pool and get used to host school Hope's facilities. After spending four months getting used to facilities in South Bend, Petcoff gave his team some valuable advice on Tuesday night.
"Get in, take your time, get to know the gutters, get to know the blocks," he said. "Take your time getting to know the blocks, get to know the walls. You've swum for four months on these gutters, now you're going someplace different. Make it familiar."
Competition kicks off today at 10 a.m., with preliminaries in the 200 free relay, 500 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 50 freestyle, 400 medley relay and 3-meter diving. Finals in those events will be tonight at 6 p.m.
All Sports Stories for Thursday, February 21, 2002