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Sunday, May 26, 2024
The Observer

Belles tennis, softball and lacrosse in action over break

Spring break was hardly a time for relaxation for Saint Mary's sports. The Belles tennis, softball and lacrosse teams were all in action, each producing unique storylines over the last week and a half.

The Belles tennis team easily had the best break of the three, continuing their red-hot start to 2023. They won all five of their matches, including a doubleheader last Tuesday, to improve to 9-0 on the year. All of the matches were convincing victories, including a pair of 9-0 victories over Marywood and Alma. Only Carthage was able to keep the final score within three. The doubles duo of senior Lucy Chamberlain and freshman Leah Hosang dominated throughout the week, while senior Kathleen McLeod, freshman Emma Kealy and sophomore Alayna Campbell consistently led the way in singles play.

Perhaps the most impressive about the Belles' early-season success is that only one of their matches so far has been at home. That will change when they return to action on Thursday against Anderson, the first of a five-game homestand.

Saint Mary's softball also had a solid performance during break, posting a 5-5 record to begin their campaign. After losing their first three games, Saint Mary's caught fire as the week progressed. Pitching made or broke the outcomes all week. Saint Mary's allowed double-digit runs four times, and the Belles lost all four of those games. Five times they held opponents to four or fewer runs, and they won all five of those contests.

Senior second baseman Caitlin Traxler won the MIAA Position Player of the Week Award, batting .522 with an OPS approaching 2.000 for the week of March 20. She and junior infielder Libby Bierbaum combined to launch eight home runs and drive in 28 runs to start the Belles' season. Senior infielder Rylee Hershberger is hitting over .300, and Bierbaum and junior shortstop McKenna Myers are not far below. Graduate student Mandi Hettinger is leading the way on the mound, posting a 2.80 ERA in 20 innings of work.

Saint Mary's offense set the tone early often, scoring at least three times in the first three innings in eight of their games. The Belles also showed strong resilience, nearly pulling off incredible comebacks against Benedictine and Ramapo. Their most dominant performance came against Minn.-Morris on the 13th. Freshman Sam Mikitka turned in the team's best pitching performance to date, allowing just one unearned run and two hits in six innings. She only didn’t come out for the seventh because a three-run sixth inning ended the game early due to the mercy rule, finalizing a 9-1 Belles victory.

The Belles' lacrosse team was by far the least busy of the three during the break, playing just twice. The Belles fell into an early 11-3 hole against Whittier on March 13 and were never able to recover. Other than senior midfielder Erin Dotson, who scored four goals, the Belles struggled to generate offense throughout. Sophomore Emma Zmudzinski left the game after allowing 13 goals on 20 shots in the first half. Five Poets -- Samantha Nimmo, Chella Davidson, Loren Jade Sepulveda, Molly Landon and Payton Climer -- recorded hat-tricks. Whittier's explosive offense powered them to a convincing 21-8 victory.

Saint Mary's second game of the week went much better for the Belles. Despite another poor first quarter that ended with the Belles trailing 6-3, Saint Mary's found a way to answer. A dominant third quarter that saw the Belles outscore Redlands 6-2 gave them control of the game. Redlands answered with four early goals in the third to knot the score at 13. But Dotson came through with two goals in the last four minutes, separated by just 1:25, to bring home a 15-14 win.

Dotson scored an impressive seven goals in the game, but this time, Saint Mary's depth came to play. After Zmundzinski exited early for the second straight game, this time after a quarter, freshman Mila Swiacki stopped eight of 16 shots in relief. And similar to Whittier the game before, a quintet of Belles tallied multiple games, with sophomore attacker Christiana Singler, sophomore attacker/defender Paige Lyons, senior midfielder Molly Mullett and sophomore midfielder Valentina Rubio each finding the back of the net twice.

The victory ended a two-game losing skid and brought the Belles back above .500 at 3-2. Saint Mary's begins a season-long six-game home stretch Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. against DePauw.