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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

Belles enjoy resurgent 2023 campaign

Perhaps no team on the tri-campus enjoyed a more impressive turnaround from 2021-22 to 2022-23 than the Saint Mary’s tennis squad. The Belles ended last spring with an 8-12 mark. They lost three of their final four matches, including a 5-0 blanking at the hands of Hope College in the MIAA tournament semi-final.

In 2023, however, the Belles posted a remarkable 17-3 record. The season started with a torrid run of results. Saint Mary’s opened the year on a 13-game winning streak, including a blazing four-game sweep of a non-conference tournament in Orlando, Florida.

Head coach Dale Campbell remarked his team's strong results outside of conference play helped set the tone for the team heading into the season:

“I think it definitely gave us confidence,” Campbell said. “I think after you play a certain number of matches and you get those wins I think you start to know that you’re a good team. When you win a couple it’s not that big of a deal. But when you win five or ten matches in a row we thought we could do some special things.”

Leading the charge for the Belles in their resurgent campaign was a strong senior core. Lucy Chamberlin garnered all-conference first-team honors. Chamberlin was a top contributor to Saint Mary’s doubles unit and also contributed in singles play. The Belles also got key contributions throughout the season from fellow seniors Kalyn Borger, Kathleen McLeod and Annika Smith.

Saint Mary’s seniors were more than just quality players on the court. They also served as the team’s leaders off the court. Campbell praised his graduating class for their contributions to the team’s culture.

“Having four great seniors leading the team as well [helped bring about the season’s success]” said Campbell. “They’ve seen a little bit of everything. With going through a COVID year, going through less play. And then playing on some teams that weren’t quite as strong, I think they could see that this could be a great season. And they wanted to capitalize. They were excellent leaders. They had some great leaders before them, and I think they learned from that.”

Though Saint Mary’s loses their senior core, looking ahead to next season the Belles still return a number of key contributors. Freshman Leah Hosang was excellent in her first season of collegiate play. Sophomore Alayna Campbell earned a second-team all-conference nod, her second in as many collegiate seasons. Saint Mary’s also enjoyed strong debut campaigns by freshmen Evelyn Demblans-Dechans and Emma Kealy. The seven-player contingent that represented the Belles in their season-ending contest to Hope included four underclassmen.

Even though the Belles’ 2023 season ended in the same place as 2022 — an MIAA Tournament Semifinal loss to Hope — the campaign was still a historic one for Campbell’s squad. And with a solid group of returning talent coming back to South Bend next year, there’s ample hope that there is more success on the horizon.