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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

Belles look to kick off season with a tournament victory

After a two-game exhibition schedule, Saint Mary's will kick off its regular season this weekend at the Hanover Tip-Off Classic in Hanover, Ind. The Belles will play Hanover tonight at 6 p.m. and then face Franklin at 1 p.m. tomorrow afternoon. First-year coach Steve Bender's team has a lot of new faces this season, with only five returning players on the roster of 13. Bender comes from coaching basketball and tennis at Buchanan High School in Buchanan, Mich. He led the boys' tennis team at Buchanan High to the 2003 Michigan state championship and will continue to coach the team this year. The Belles hope that he can parlay his considerable coaching success at Buchanan into a winning season for Saint Mary's. Saint Mary's takes on two new seniors in Shelly Bender and Nicole Tucker, as well as five freshmen in Nicole Beier, Meghan Conaty, Calli Davison, Emily Light, Erin Newsom and Katie Rashid. Bender is pleased with both his veteran players as well as the incoming ones, and the team looks to be deeper than it has been in a while."We have a lot of depth, which is key. But we also have great leadership from our two captains," Bender said in an interview earlier this season. "Our athleticism, and the depth that we have, will help us extend pressure on teams throughout the game."Saint Mary's is ranked No. 7 in the MIAA pre-season coaches' poll after an 11-15 overall record and a 6-10 MIAA record last season. The Belles are led this year by captains Bridget Boyce and Bridget Lipke. Boyce, a senior, was a second-team all-MIAA selection last season while averaging 12 points a game and starting every game at guard. The junior Lipke earned an MIAA honorable mention selection last season, and led the team with 86 assists last season from the other guard spot while playing a team-high 860 minutes. The Belles also return sophomore standout Allison Kessler, who averaged 8.3 points a game while sophomore and junior Bernadette and Stephanie Broderick will come back this season to help the Belles. Bender realizes his new team has some work to do and this weekend's tournament will not be easy. "We've got to get a lot more physical on the boards." Bender said after last Friday's scrimmage against Lake Michigan College. "We've got to develop more of a post presence, and pick up our intensity. Hanover and Franklin are going to come at us tough."