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Saturday, June 22, 2024
The Observer

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Belles lacrosse ends season on 11-game skid

Saint Mary’s goes winless in March and April, finishing 1-13

It was not a great year for the Saint Mary’s lacrosse team.

​The Belles lost thirteen of fourteen games during their season, including all seven in Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) play and their last eleven overall. They ceded 252 goals in those 14 games (18.0 per game average), which ranked 267th out of 278 NCAA Division III women’s lacrosse programs. They struggled to keep the ball out of the net all season, surrendering double-digit goals in every single game and 20 goals six times. Three of their final four losses were by more than 10 goals.

​Saint Mary’s picked up its only win of the 2024 season against North Central (Ill.) on February 28, a 14-11 decision that saw the Belles mount a dramatic, fourth-quarter comeback. They scored eight unanswered goals to cap off the victory, including a 7-0 run in the fourth quarter.

​First-year head coach Kara Visker will have a long offseason to figure out how to get the SMC program back to its winning ways, which included a 12-7 record (5-2 MIAA) in 2022-23 under head coach Amy Long. That was her 10th and final season with the Belles, as the inaugural coach in the program’s history stepped down during the offseason. Visker had big shoes to fill, and it becomes even more challenging for her now after the team won eleven fewer games and finished at 1-13 (0-7 in conference play).

​Perhaps some good news for Saint Mary’s is that six of its top seven goal scorers from this year are poised to return in 2024-25. Leading the way is sophomore attacker Alyssa Grant, who scored 27 times as a sophomore to pace the club while also tying for second on the team with 11 assists. Midfielder Valentina Rubio also potted 20 tallies in her junior season, while a strong freshman supporting cast added depth scoring. Four freshmen scored at least eight times, including midfielder Kathryn Kalinowski, who also added 11 helpers and a team-leading 34 ground balls. The only double-digit goal scorer set to graduate is attacker Reese Bauer, who provided a very solid 16-11-27 scoring line in her senior year.

Emma Zmudzinski will return next year in goal as a senior. Her save percentage in 2024 (.349) was actually in line with her career mark (.359), so blaming her for the plethora of goals against would be inaccurate. Still, the Belles will hope her goals against average reverts back to between 11 and 13, where it was in her first two seasons in the crease, rather than her 17.82 mark in 2024.

With a track record of success in the MIAA, there is certainly pressure on both coach Visker and her team to bounce back in a big way in 2024-25. Whether or not that means a winning season, one thing is for sure: 1-13 with 18 goals against per game is not going to cut it two years in a row.