Youthful Belles jump into action
By KATIE McVOY
Assistant Sports Editor
The young Belles' volleyball team, under the direction of head coach Julie Schroeder-Biek, is looking to get its feet wet at the Alma Tournament this weekend.
Saint Mary's will open its season today at 5 p.m. against Alma College and play four other games during the Friday/Saturday tournament. With only four returning members, the team is looking to become a cohesive unit.
"We really want to use this tournament to gel as a team and get to know each other because we are so young," said senior Victoria Butcko.
"These are very intelligent women who are playing for the love of the game," Schroeder-Biek said. "They can learn to work well together."
Schroeder-Biek returns to Saint Mary's after taking four seasons off to stay home with her daughter. The women on the team are looking for her to bring focus to the team.
"She's very goal oriented," senior Angie Meyers said. "She makes sure we focus on our goals."
Those goals will be important in getting the Belles off to a good start this weekend.
"We really want to improve, stay intense on the court and gel as a team," Meyers said.
Saint Mary's, after finishing last season with a 17-14 overall record and a 5-3 MIAA record, will face the 16-16, 4-4 Alma Scots in the season opener. The Scots finished in a tie for fourth place with Kalamazoo College, right behind Saint Mary's. The Belles are looking for good competition from the Scotts.
"Alma has always been a pretty solid team, so it will be a tough match," Butcko said.
Saint Mary's had the upper hand in last year's encounter with Alma, winning 15-8, 15-8, 15-7.
After a short break, the Belles will face off against the Spring Arbor Cougars at 8 p.m. tonight.
"We've never played Spring Arbor before, so we don't know what to expect," Butcko said.
Saint Mary's will face its other tough competition of the weekend on Saturday, when the women line up against Wittenberg College at 9 a.m. Wittenberg finished the 1999 season with an 18-12 record.
"We've played well against Wittenberg, but things may change this year because our team is so young," Butcko said. "Wittenberg will be another tough match."
The Belles finish off two more matches on Saturday before heading home. Saint Mary's will play Carthage and Aquinas Saturday afternoon.
Carthage came out on top when the two teams met last year, winning the game 3-1. The Belles dropped the matches 17-19, 12-15, and 11-15. This season's match promises to be a close one.
Saint Mary's has not played Division II school Aquinas previously.
The winner of the tournament will be decided by the team with the best record after five games.
The Belles are looking forward to this weekend's tournament.
"We are all really excited for this weekend," Butcko said. "This is our only overnight tournament so we're going to play our best and really work on our skills."
Because her team is so young, Schroeder-Biek has been working on the basics at practices. The women, who have only had one day off since preseason practice began, have been focusing on solid passes, agressive net play and good passing.
"We've really been focusing on defense as well," Butcko said. "We don't have any big blockers this year, so that's a main area to look at."
The extensive practices seem to be paying off following a successful scrimage against Lake Michigan College on Wednesday. Although they did not keep score, Saint Mary's considered its performance on Wednesday to be a victory.
"We played very well on Wednesday," Butcko said. "We are way ahead of where we thought we'd be at this point in the season."
All Sports Stories for Friday, September 1, 2000