Belles End Season With Valiant Effort Against No. 2 Hope
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Saint Mary's volleyball team concluded the 2014 season with a 3-0 (25-15, 25-22, 25-7) conference loss to No. 2 ranked Hope on Friday night.
The Belles came out with determination against the second-ranked Flying Dutch. Saint Mary's traded punches with Hope through the first eight points played to see the opening set tied up at 4-4. The Flying Dutch, however, put together two quick runs while winning eight of the next nine points to establish a 12-5 advantage. Visiting Hope maintained at least a six-point lead over the remainder of the set as they claimed the 25-15 opener.
The second set saw the Belles prove that they were more than capable of playing with the nationally-ranked Flying Dutch. In a set that saw nine ties and six lead changes, things were far from decided at any instance in the second stanza. The Belles overcame an early deficit by rattling off five of six points to go ahead 7-5. When the Flying Dutch put together a four-point run to go ahead 11-10, the Belles fought right back and turned the tables with a kill by Melanie Kuczek, a block by Rachel Bonek and Kuczek, and an ace by Kati Schneider to regain a 14-12 lead.
The Flying Dutch again tried to take over the momentum with three straight kills, but Saint Mary's continued to have a response for Hope. Bonek put down a kill, and Leah Buck came up with a solo block in the middle to regain the lead for the Belles at 16-15 and force the Flying Dutch into taking a time out. After the break, Hope registered four kills in-a-row for a 19-16 advantage. Things were far from over for the Belles though as Saint Mary's pounded down three kills to knot the score at 19-19.
Another quick run by Hope put the Flying Dutch ahead 23-20, but the Belles refused to go down without one last push at taking the set. The teams traded the next two points to give Hope a 24-21 lead, but the grit and determination was just as evident in the following point as all others leading up to it. Meaghan Gibbons made a diving dig to her right to keep the play and the set alive for the Belles, and Kati Schneider put a well-placed tip just over the Hope block and down for the kill to make the set 24-22. The Hope lead, however, was too much for the Belles to overcome late as the Flying Dutch took the set 25-22.
Visiting Hope opened up the third set by winning the first eight points played and added a nine-point run a little while later on their way to a 25-7 win and the three-set match victory.
Kati Schneider led the Belles with six kills on the night to go along with eight digs. Melanie Kuczek added five kills and three block assists. Lexi Grady had 12 assists for the Belles. Meaghan Gibbons led the team with nine digs, and Rachel Bonek chipped in three blocks on the night.
The Belles end their season with a 15-13 overall record and an 8-8 mark in conference play. The 15 wins is the most for the program under head coach Toni Elyea while the .500 conference winning percentage gave Saint Mary's a share of fourth place in the final league standings.