Belles Fall Short in Upset Bid Against Flying Dutch
- Meaghan Gibbons led the Belles with 14 kills and two aces, and Rachel Bonek registered 13 kills.
- Kaylin Szucs put up 23 digs to lead Saint Mary's while Morgan Klein notched 13 digs.
- Alexis Grady paced the team with 24 assists, and Clare McMillan posted a double-double with 10 assists and 11 digs.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The Saint Mary's volleyball team ended their season with a 3-1 (25-16, 25-22, 23-25, 25-22) loss against No. 10 ranked Hope in the first semifinal of the MIAA Tournament on Friday night.
The Belles came out ready to play and jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first set as the Flying Dutch called a timeout to slow the momentum. Hope inched their way back into the thick of things before taking their first lead at 13-12. That lead change was part of a 7-2 run by the Flying Dutch as the Belles opted for a timeout after trailing 15-12. Saint Mary's immediately got a point back to make it 15-13, but a big 5-0 run by Hope put the set out of reach as the Flying Dutch took the opening stanza 25-16.
The second set saw Saint Mary's erase an early deficit as the Belles used an 7-2 run to go up 13-8. The Belles extended that advantage to six points a short while later when a kill by Alexis Grady made it 15-9. Saint Mary's continued to find a response for Hope as Rachel Bonek put down a kill and Kaylin Szucs served up an ace to make it 18-15 in favor of the Belles. The Flying Dutch, however, earned the next six points via kills to claim a 21-18 lead - their first lead since 5-4 in the set. A service error stopped the run, and an attack error put Saint Mary's within a point at 21-20. Back-to-back Flying Dutch kills gave Hope a 23-20 lead. The Belles were unable to cut the deficit to fewer than two points late as the Flying Dutch claimed the second set with a 25-22 score.
The Belles continued to battle toe-to-toe with the tenth-ranked Flying Dutch in the third set. The teams stayed within two points of one another throughout the set until a 4-0 spurt by Hope gave the Flying Dutch an 18-15 lead. Saint Mary's fought right back with a 5-0 run with kills by Meaghan Gibbons, Rachel Bonek (two), and Morgan Klein as well as an ace by Gibbons. It was Hope's turn to string together points, and the Flying Dutch inched ahead 22-20, but the Belles came right back with three points in a row with two more kills by Bonek and a Hope hitting error. The Flying Dutch knotted the score at 23-23, but a Hope hitting error followed by a kill by Alexis Grady lifted the Belles to a 25-23 win to keep the match alive.
Saint Mary's was poised to send the match to a fifth set after breaking open a 13-13 match with an 18-13 lead. Three consecutive miscues by the Belles put Hope back in the thick of things at 18-16, but Gibbons regained some momentum with a kill for the 19-16 lead. The Flying Dutch used a pair of kills and a block to tie the score at 19-19 before Gibbons put away a kill to give Saint Mary's a 20-19 edge. With the score tied at 21-21 two points later, the Flying Dutch rattled off a momentum-killing 3-0 spurt for a 24-21 lead. Rachel Bonek came up with a big solo block to keep the Belles' hopes alive at 24-22, but a Hope kill on the next point closed out the set, 25-22, and the match, 3-1.
Attack errors and blocks proved to play big factors in the outcome of the match. The Belles had 31 attack errors to the Flying Dutch's 19 while Hope collected nine blocks to Saint Mary's two.
Meaghan Gibbons led the Belles with 14 kills and two aces, and Rachel Bonek registered 13 kills with a .205 hitting percentage. Kaylin Szucs put up 23 digs to lead Saint Mary's while Morgan Klein notched 13 digs. Alexis Grady paced the team with 24 assists, and Clare McMillan posted a double-double with 10 assists and 11 digs.
After the conclusion of the match, it was announced that Gibbons and Szucs had both earned All-MIAA recognition for their efforts during the regular season. Gibbons was a First Team All-MIAA selection while Szucs earned the nod as a Second Team All-MIAA honoree. It was the first All-MIAA recognition of each player's career.
The Belles end their season with a 15-14 overall record. It is the third consecutive season the team has posted at least 15 wins as Saint Mary's tied the program record for MIAA wins (11) and highest conference finish (third).