Belles need to net wins
Inside Saint Mary's Sports
They're inexperienced. They're still adjusting to playing at the college level.
Sure, these are all very good reasons why any team would have a rocky start to their season. But are they really good reasons why a team is dropping games to competition that they laughed at last year?
This season has started off with something more like a flop than a bang for the Saint Mary's volleyball team.
Following last year's 17-15 season that left the Belles in third place in the MIAA, it was starting to look as if maybe Saint Mary's would have a real winning sports team this season.
However, this year's statistics would prove otherwise.
It's true that the Belles graduated several of their important starting players last year, but those of us who follow the Volleybelles were expecting slightly better than an 0-7 start this season.
The team is once again under the direction of head coach Julie Schroeder-Biek, who was the head coach from 1991-1996. Her prior experience gave fans another reason to expect good, if not great things, from this team.
However, there is only so much a coach can do for her team.
Saint Mary's is again trying to adjust itself to a new coach. The beginning of the 1999 season saw the Belles with a new coach, and now, for the second year in a row they face readjustment.
With all the turnover in coaching, the team has not had consistent training. They had to spend the majority of preseason learning how Schroeder-Biek wanted them to pass, set and dig.
Adjusting to new coaching alone would cause problems for any team, but this young team has other problems to face as well.
The Belles have no starters returning to their same positions. Jolie LeBeau, this year's starting middle hitter, only played the front three spots in rotation last year. Victoria Butcko and Angie Meyers only played the back three, and Jamie Dineen was the back-up setter.
The Saint Mary's volleyball team has not recruited for its team in the last 2 1/2 years. This, along with the lack of returning players, really causes problems for the team.
"We really have very little depth," Schroeder-Biek said.
Because of that, the women who are new to the team are being called on to play positions that are not their true positions. Freshman Leigh Ann Matesich was moved from a setter to a lead defender for the team. That's quite an adjustment for any player, especially one who is also trying to adjust to college competition.
"But we have to play the women where we, as a team, need them," Schroeder-Biek said.
In addition to not having depth, and moving to new positions, several of the new players just do not have the refined skills that are usually found on a college volleyball court. The players come from a variety of backgrounds, and at this point in the season the team still needs to work on the basic skills. With the Belles still focusing on basic skills they cannot be expected to be able to face off against strong competition successfully.
"We have to give 100 percent heart, 100 percent body and 100 percent soul to even think about a win," Schroeder-Biek said.
Unfortunately, there are teams with stronger skills giving that same 100 percent.
This year's focus cannot be wins. This year's focus has to be the education necessary to become a power in volleyball. Basic skills, plays, and team cohesion are going to be what is important this season.
Schroeder-Biek knows that her team is going to be fighting for wins this year. Challenges lie ahead.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, September 12, 2000