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Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024
The Observer

SMC Soccer: Belles open conference play against Olivet

Just like last year, the Belles went undefeated through non-conference play. And just like last year, the Belles (2-0-1) will try to kick off the MIAA calendar with a win against Olivet when the teams square off Thursday in Olivet, Mich.

In 2011, Saint Mary's started the season 4-0 before downing the Comets 3-0 to extend its season-opening win streak to five games. Belles coach Michael Joyce said his squad is hoping to do the same Thursday.

"We beat Olivet twice last year, so it is an important game for us," Joyce said. "It's important for us to get a result."

In order to have a similar outcome this time around against the Comets (0-4), Joyce said Saint Mary's will need to ramp up its energy level.

"I think we'll have to raise our intensity when it comes to our conference matches," Joyce said. "So that will be a big thing for us on Thursday: getting up for the intensity of conference play."

The Belles rolled through non-conference action with a sparkling combined score of 7-0, including a dominant 6-0 victory against Holy Cross on Sept. 4. Saint Mary's outshot the Saints 44-8 and netted goals from six different players. The six goals were the most scored by a Saint Mary's team since the 2009 season.

Joyce said the key against Holy Cross was getting the whole team involved in the offensive attack. Freshman midfielders Kathryn Lueking, Maggie McLaughlin and Rachel Schulte all scored goals, while the other three goals came from a trio of forwards. Joyce said he is looking for the Belles to generate a similarly balanced team offense against Olivet.

"Against Holy Cross we had a lot of our midfielders and backs getting involved in the attack," Joyce said. "So hopefully we'll look for those opportunities against Olivet and create a team attack rather than just leaving it up to the forwards. I think that went very well against Holy Cross."

The Belles also possessed the ball against the Saints and patiently waited for the right opportunity to lay the ball off to an open teammate, Joyce said.

"Against Holy Cross, we were also very smart with the ball," Joyce said. "They play with a very high offside trap, trying to catch you offside. There was great recognition from our player to stay onside, and to pick the right player on a through ball."

At the other end of the pitch, Saint Mary's has been equally consistent in its three shutouts. Against Olivet, a team that has yet to score in four games, the Belles will be looking for another strong outing from the back line.

"We have some very talented players back there," Joyce said. "We returned almost everyone from last year on the defensive line, so experience and cohesion help. Our goalkeeper, [sophomore] Chanler Rosenbaum has been playing really well. Not giving up too many goals should be a strength for us all season."

So far, the defense has been one of the strengths for the Belles. The team is only giving up an average of 9.7 shots per game, with just 5.7 shots on goal per game.

Rosenbaum and fellow sophomore goalies Hannah Bruggeman and Nicole Papiernik have combined for 290 minutes of shutout goalkeeping. Rosenbaum got the start in each of the first two games of the season and recorded 11 saves. Bruggeman and Papiernik split the goaltending duties against Holy Cross, and combined for six saves in the shutout.

A year ago in the conference opener against the Comets, Rosenbaum - then a freshman - got the start and recorded her first shutout in the 3-0 win.

The Belles are hoping for a similar result this year, Joyce said, but they know that no win is guaranteed.

"It would really be a step backwards not to come out of our first game with a win," Joyce said. "But no conference match is easy."

Saint Mary's attempts to remain undefeated Thursday when it takes on Olivet at 4 p.m. at the Cutler Athletic Complex.