While Saint Mary's clinched the fourth spot in the MIAA tournament with a win over Adrian last week, the Belles still have at least one goal left to accomplish in the regular season — to defeat No. 5 Calvin.
The Belles (12-11, 8-6 MIAA) will travel Grand Rapids, Mich. tonight to play first place Calvin (22-1, 14-1) in their second-to-last regular season game. ‘Belles coach Jenn Henley said the team is looking forward to the opportunity to beat the best team in the conference.
"It's a big game," Henley said. "They are the No. 1 team in the conference so anytime you play the top team in the conference, you are gunning for them. I think they are beatable."
The Belles lost to Calvin 80-54 earlier this season and have not beat the Knights since 2009. Much of Calvin's firepower comes from junior forward Carissa Verkaik, who leads the MIAA in both scoring and blocked shots. To beat the Knights this time around, the Belles will have to limit the impact Verkaik has on the game, Henley said.
"As she goes, their team goes. She is very good and does a good job for them defensively with her ability to block shots and alter shots and keep people out of the paint. That's going to be our number one focus," Henley said. "It's going to be a total team effort in terms of shutting her down."
To combat Verkaik and the Knights, the Belles will rely on their four starting seniors, who all average over 10 points per game. In addition, Saint Mary's will need to continue to get to the free throw line and play well as a team, Henley said.
"I think we are doing a good job of getting to the foul line," Henley said. "That's kind of been a thing for us all year. Trying to put some points on the board with the clock stopped. Our team is playing really well right now. They've got some good chemistry going."
With Calvin sitting atop the conference, they are currently slated to play Saint Mary's in the first round of the MIAA postseason tournament next week. While Henley said the Belles' strategy will not change because of likelihood they will play the Knights again in the playoffs, she is not sure how Calvin will handle the game.
"I don't think we will [go about the game any differently]," Henley said. "Wednesday is Calvin's last regular season game and there is a great chance for their first game in the tournament to be us again. They may be preparing a little differently knowing we are going to play each other two times in a row. I think it makes for an interesting tournament because we will be really familiar with them."
The Belles will travel to Grand Rapids, Mich. to play the Knights tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Contact Peter Steiner at firstname.lastname@example.org