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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Observer

SMC Soccer: Belles face stern test in final test at Kalamazoo

The Belles will make a last-ditch effort to clinch a playoff berth in the regular season finale against Kalamazoo on Tuesday.

The top four teams in the MIAA advance to the postseason conference tournament, the winner of which automatically qualifies for the NCAA tournament. Saint Mary's (12-5-2, 9-5-1 MIAA) enters the game in sixth place with 28 points, just one point behind Hope, Alma and the Hornets (11-5-2, 9-4-2), who are tied for second. Hope and Alma each square off against teams - Albion and Trine - which are winless in conference play, while the Belles battle Kalamazoo.

"We are very excited and pumped for this game," Belles sophomore goalie Chanler Rosenbaum said. "It comes down to this one and we are all very prepared and eager to win."

But a win doesn't necessarily clinch a playoff spot for Saint Mary's. The Belles would need to defeat Kalamazoo, have Calvin (34 points) defeat Adrian (31 points) and have both Hope and Alma win their matchups. In this scenario, the Belles would tie with Adrian with 31 points, and Saint Mary's would win the tiebreaker for the final playoff spot.

"I think we have a very good chance," Rosenbaum said. "We have beaten Kalamazoo before and are playing on our own field. We just have to win this game and Calvin has to beat Adrian, which is very possible."

Yet before the Belles can think about receiving help from other teams and advancing to the four-team conference playoff, they need to take care of their own business.

"We are just going to go out there to do our best and not worry about everyone else," Rosenbaum said. "We have to play our game and worry about winning before we can even think about how the other teams our playing."

In the two teams' first meeting, Saint Mary's defeated Kalamazoo on Sept. 29 on the road when junior captain and midfielder Mollie Valencia broke a scoreless tie with just 2:30 remaining in regulation to give the Belles a 1-0 victory. Rosenbaum said the final score does not indicate just how well Saint Mary's played in that game, a performance it will be looking to duplicate Tuesday.

"When we played Kalamazoo, we dominated the majority of the game but just couldn't make a goal until the last minutes," Rosenbaum said. "We know it's not going to be easy, but if we play as hard as we did before, we can make it happen."

The win against the Hornets jump-started a stretch in which the Belles won six of seven games. But Saint Mary's is just 1-2-1 since that streak ended. Rosenbaum said during recent practices the Belles have been focused on improving their offense.

"The main focuses [in practice] have been possession, connecting more passes, and ripping more shots," Rosenbaum said.

While Saint Mary's will look to improve an offense that has scored multiple goals in just one of those last four games, Rosenbaum said the game will be decided based on levels intensity and tenacity.

"I think the deciding factor [Tuesday] will be who wants it more," Rosenbaum said. "We both are fighting for that final spot for the conference tournament. It comes down to heart, dedication and perseverance for which team is willing to fight to the bitter end to get that ball in the back of the net."

The Belles and Hornets square off at 3 p.m. at the Saint Mary's soccer fields.

Contact Mike Monaco at