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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer

Belles gear up for another fall sports season

Saint Mary's Volleyball huddles up prior to their matchup against Trine on Sept. 6, 2022.
Saint Mary's volleyball huddles up prior to their matchup against Trine on Sept. 6, 2022.

The fall semester is back in full swing, and with it, so is another year of Saint Mary's athletics. Four Belles teams will be in action this fall, including the Saint Mary's golf team, which will finish its season in the spring. As the Belles begin ramping up their seasons, here's what you need to know about each team in action this semester.


Last season was a trying transition year for the Belles on the pitch. The 2022 team featured a roster on which more players were new to the program than returning thanks to a combination of freshmen, walk-ons and transfers. Combine that with a first-year head coach in Farkhod Kurbonov, and the deck was stacked against Saint Mary's from the start. As a result, the Belles went a disappointing 0-13-3, finishing last in the CCAC. The team competed hard, however, with just four of their losses coming by more than two goals.

In order to find more success in Kurbonov's second season, Saint Mary's will need to find more offense. The Belles scored just eight times last season, scoring two goals in a game only twice. The team does have three of their five goal scorers from last season returning, as well as junior goalkeeper Riley Lindsey. Lindsey kept the Belles in almost every game last season, recording a .753 save percentage and stopping as many as 20 shots in one contest.

Her presence and increased continuity should give the Belles a better shot at finding the win column with consistency in 2023. St. Mary's is 0-1 after dropping its season-opener 2-0 to Central (Iowa). Their next match and home opener takes place Wednesday against IUSB at 7 p.m.


Saint Mary's is looking to replicate its strong start to last season and erase everything that came after it. The Belles began 2022 3-1, only to lose 13 straight and finish 5-19. The team will have a big hole to fill, as Second Team All-MIAA outside hitter Colleen McCarthy will not return in 2023. McCarthy was third in the conference with 105 kills and was among the best Belles in several categories last fall.

Nearly 50% of the 13-person roster is made up of newcomers, including a trio of freshmen. However, there are some impact players among the returners. Sophomore setter Mia Shields, junior outside hitter Cali Allen and sophomore outside hitter Grace Braselton all reached the 100-kill mark a season ago. Six members of last year's team who appeared in at least 18 games are back for 2023. Junior libero Bethany DeSilvestro and junior setter Shani Russell should make an impact as transfers.

Through four matches this fall, the Belles are 2-2. Both of Saint Mary's wins were clean 3-0 sweeps of Pitt.-Greensburg and Capital, something they did just once last season. Head coach Denise Van De Walle will look to lead the Belles to double-digit victories this season, a feat the team achieved in five straight seasons under her watch from 2015-2019. The Belles are back in action this weekend three times during the NCAC-MIAA Crossover. Their home opener is on Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. against Manchester.


The Belles are scheduled to compete seven times this fall, including in four MIAA Jamboree events. Saint Mary's placed first twice and second twice out of nine teams in the competitions.

The Belles will have a veteran-heavy squad this season, with six of the seven members returning from 2023. Freshman Colleen Hand, a native of Royal Oak, Michigan, is the lone new addition. Junior Katelyn Tokarz and sophomore Julia Lizak figure to lead the way once again. Head coach Jordan Koehler relied heavily on both last season, as the pair competed in every tournament round last season. Tokarz earned a Second Team All-MIAA nod for her strong campaign.

Led by sophomore Amanda Melling's career-low 77 in the second round, the Belles finished 10th in the Lynn Schweizer Invitational. They'll head to the Albion, Indiana, for the first MIAA Jamboree of the fall on Sept. 14.

Cross Country

Head coach Jackie Bauters is set to begin her 16th season leading the Belles cross country team. She is the longest-tenured head coach at Saint Mary's and one of the longest-tenured coaches across the entire tri-campus community. She was thrilled with what she saw at the end of last season, as numerous Belles had personal records in the MIAA Championship and set a strong foundation to carry into 2023.

The team's first race reflected that promise. Led by senior Amanda Tracy's 5K personal record, three Belles placed inside the top 30, including a pair of freshmen in Savannah Paulson and Jordan Siminski. The Olivet Comet Open was the first of four regular-season meets for the team before the MIAA Championships on Oct. 28. The Belles' next competition is the Gil Dodds Invitational in Warrenville, Indiana, on Sept. 16.

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