2016 Season in Review
- Third consecutive season with at least 15 wins.
- Tied the program record for MIAA wins (11) and highest conference finish (third).
- Two all-tournament team performers, two All-MIAA honorees, and three MIAA Player of the Week recognitions.
Third place finish in the MIAA behind two nationally-ranked teams. Eleven MIAA wins. Fifteen total victories. Those are just three of the major accomplishments put up by the Saint Mary’s volleyball team in 2016.
The team opened the season at the highly competitive Emory Classic. The Belles squared off against two teams – St. Thomas and Emory – who went on to make the 2016 NCAA Tournament as well as a Birmingham Southern squad who won over 20 matches this past fall. While Saint Mary’s did not come away with a win at the tournament, the Belles gained valuable experience against some of the top teams in Division III volleyball.
The Belles returned to the Midwest and claimed their opening win of the year on the road at Manchester before suffering setbacks against Adrian and then-No.3 Calvin to open MIAA play. Saint Mary’s responded to the consecutive losses by winning six of their next seven contests – including four of five conference competitions.
The end of September and beginning of October were accompanied by another tough tournament for the Belles as Saint Mary’s took on regionally-ranked opposition from UW-Whitewater, UW-La Crosse, and UW-Oshkosh before sweeping Dominican at the UW-Oshkosh Invitational. The Belles closed out the first round of MIAA play with a 3-1 win over Trine at home to hold a 5-3 record going into the second half of league play.
That second round opened up with a big 3-2 win on the road at Adrian to avenge a 3-0 loss to the Bulldogs earlier in the season. The Belles bounced back from a 3-0 loss against eventual NCAA Division III Champion Calvin to go 5-1 over their final six conference matches and post a 6-2 record against MIAA foes in the second half of the season. The final stretch of league play for Saint Mary’s saw the team go 3-0 with three consecutive sweeps to give the squad the most MIAA wins since 1998 while tying the program’s highest league finish. Additionally, the team had 15 wins for the third season in-a-row, marking the first such stretch since 1987-1989.
The Belles’ third place finish also earned the team a spot back in the MIAA Tournament for the first time since the 2013 season. Saint Mary’s came up short in their upset bid of eventual tournament champion Hope in a tightly-played 3-1 final to end the season. After the match, it was announced that Meaghan Gibbons and Kaylin 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. Other individual honors included:
All-Tournament Team Selections
- Rachel Bonek, Emory Classic
- Meaghan Gibbons, UW-Oshkosh Invitational
MIAA Players of the Week
- Kaylin Szucs – Week #4
- Meaghan Gibbons – Week #8
- Meaghan Gibbons – Week #9
Gibbons led the team with a single-season career high 304 kills while Rachel Bonek (233), McKenzie Todd (162), Colleen Kilgallon (156), and Leah Buck (146) all posted career-best kill efforts in 2016. Kaylin Szucs burst on the scene with 479 digs as the team’s starting libero. The freshman’s dig total was the most posted by a first-year team member since Meghann Rose posted 465 during her first season with the Belles in 2008. Moreover, her final tally of digs was the third-highest among rally scoring season marks in digs in the history of the program. Alexis Grady posted a single-season career best 721 assists, and Clare McMillan concluded her career in third place all-time among rally scoring era setters in program history with 2,596 assists. The pair become the first classmates to each reach 1,000 career assists. Gibbons added her name to the top-five all-time list for career aces (114). Leah Buck led the team yet again in blocks (74) while six total players registered at least 25 blocks for the Belles in 2016.