Belles Outlast Hornets in Five Sets
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - The Saint Mary's volleyball team battled their way to a 3-2, (21-25, 25-13, 28-26, 19-25, 15-13) conference win at Kalamazoo on Saturday.
After falling in the opening set, the Belles took control early in the second set against the Hornets. Saint Mary's claimed six of the first seven points before extending their lead to 16-4 with a big seven-point run. During that run, the Belles had two kills by Katie Hecklinski, two service aced by Sam Grady, a solo block by Leah Buck, and a kill by Buck in a well-rounded team effort. That lead was more than enough as the Belles evened the overall match score at a set each.
In a nail-biter of a third set, Saint Mary's was able to establish an early 11-7 lead before the Hornets tied the set at 15-15. Kalamazoo later took the lead with a four-point spurt for a 22-19 advantage. The Belles tied the set at 22-22, but the Hornets struck back with the next two points to go up set-point at 24-22. The momentum shifted again as Kalamazoo had a service error followed by an attack error and a Saint Mary's block to give the Belles the set-point opportunity at 25-24. Two points later, the Belles had another chance to take the set after going ahead 26-25, but again the Hornets came up with a point to keep the set going. Down the stretch, the offense came through with back-to-back kills by Melanie Kuczek and Rachel Bonek for the 28-26 win.
In the fourth set, the Belles came back from an early deficit and went ahead 19-16. The host Hornets had other things in mind and responded with nine points in-a-row for a head-turning 25-19 win to force a decisive fifth set.
Riding high off the momentum of the end of the fourth set, the Hornets grabbed a 6-1 lead quickly in the fifth set. This time, it was the Belles who did not go quietly. Continuing to chip away at the deficit, the Belles edged within 7-5 and 8-7 midway through the set. With the Hornets up 9-7, the Belles took over the momentum and the lead with a three-point spurt to go ahead 10-9. The teams traded points before the Belles were able to win back-to-back points on a pair of kills by Kuczek to go ahead 13-11. Saint Mary's then closed out the set and the win by capitalizing on a missed serve and an attack error by the Hornets for the 15-13 decision.
Katie Hecklinski led all players with 18 kills and a career-high 35 digs. Melanie Kuczek added 11 kills, and Meaghan Gibbons tallied 28 digs. McKenzie Todd had a season-best 23 digs, and Samantha Grady added 15 digs. Clare McMillan tallied a double-double with 38 assists and 13 digs, and Leah Buck was a force to be reckoned with at the net with seven blocks.
The Belles (13-11, 7-7 MIAA) travel to North Park on Friday, October 24 for a tri-match with Augustana and the host Vikings beginning at 5:00 p.m. CDT.