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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

SMC Volleyball: Saint Mary's splits pair of nonconference matches


The Belles beat Lakeland 3-2 in the first match of a nonconference doubleheader but lost 3-0 to Wheaton on Saturday at the Wheaton Thunder Quad Tournament.

Saint Mary's (5-5, 3-1 MIAA) defeated the Muskies (5-4, 1-0 NACC) in five sets on the strength of 49 kills. Junior outside hitter Kati Schneider, junior middle hitter Melanie Kuczek and sophomore outside hitter Katie Hecklinski supplied much of the firepower for the Belles.

Some of the biggest plays, however, came from junior middle hitter Taylor Etzell, Belles coach Toni Elyea said.

"Taylor Etzell was able to take her game to the next level this weekend," Elyea said. "This was something our coaching staff has been waiting for. She was able to get into a better offensive rhythm with her setter and come up with big plays when they were needed."

Sophomore defensive specialist Angela Bukur sparked the Belles from the back row with her defense and serving. Bukur pounded four service aces out of a total of nine for Saint Mary's.

"Angela Bukur also did a great job this weekend coming into matches and making an impact," Elyea said. "Her serving and defense was something that we needed to get the win."

Big plays, cooperation and focus secured the grueling, five-match win for the Belles, Elyea said.

"It takes poise, control and the willingness to want to listen to your teammates and coaches," Elyea said.

Saint Mary's fell to the Thunder (8-4, 0-0 CCIW) in their second match. Wheaton took three straight sets, 25-20, 25-10 and 25-15.

The Belles did not find a consistent offensive rhythm, and Wheaton produced 38 kills to Saint Mary's 29 kills. The Thunder's dynamic offense simply outplayed the Belles defense, Elyea said.

"They were a very fast and dominant hitting team," Elyea said. "We did not play our best defensively or transition well. We will need to get better this week moving into our conference matches."

The Belles will have a conference opportunity Tuesday against Trine. Sophomore outside hitter Taylor Rabel leads the Thunder (3-6, 0-3 MIAA) in kills, but Trine has several offensive threats. Sophomore outside hitters Lauren Verkamp and Megan Verkamp provide the Thunder with options on offense.

"Trine has a lot of offensive weapons," Elyea said. "We will need to serve better this Tuesday to get them out of system as much as possible. We expect a very tough match as always."

Saint Mary's will take on Trine at home Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Contact Samantha Zuba at