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Belles Stopped by Brits in MIAA Opener

Becca Stella looks up the field with the ball at her feet.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Saint Mary's soccer team fell in a 3-1 final at home against Albion in both teams' Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association opener for the 2019 season on Tuesday evening.
The Belles applied pressure after the opening whistle, but the Brits capitalized on a counter attack in the second minute with a give-and-go scoring play to take the early 1-0 lead.
Saint Mary's looked to equalize with a pair of scoring chances midway through the first period. Rose Stackhouse played the ball over the top centrally for Maya Cole in the 18th minute, but the pass was too heavy as it carried away from the sophomore and into the box as the Albion goalkeeper came off her line to pick it up. A few minutes later, Cole played a pass wide along the left side for Stackhouse. After a couple of touches, Stackhouse slotted a pass through the defense to the top of the box toward Jillian Bowen, but the freshman was shielded by the last defender as the Brits shut down the chance. The Belles worked to build toward a scoring opportunity in the 35th minute. Lexi Trombly flicked the ball ahead for Stackhouse. The sophomore worked her way through a 1-v-3 and drew the goalkeeper off of her line, but Stackhouse's falling shot from 15 yards away grazed the outside of the left post and went out for a goal kick.
The Belles were whistled for a foul in the 18-yard box in the 41st minute, and Albion doubled their lead by converting the ensuing penalty as the Brits held a 2-0 advantage at the halftime break.
Albion used the opening possession of the second period to apply some early pressure, but the Belles nearly turned the tables and returned the favor of the first half to the Brits. Thallia Robles made a straightforward save, and the Belles pushed up the field quickly. A whistle against Albion on transition gave Saint Mary's a free kick in their offensive end. Kellen Hinchey dropped a well-placed ball inside the box, and Megan Saunders nearly caught the Albion goalkeeper off balance with a header on goal before the netminder was able to make the save. In the 53rd minute, Sophia Fleming sent a high-arcing ball into the box from the right side of the field. Rose Stackhouse nearly timed the run perfectly to meet the pass as it came down, but the Brits' goalkeeper was able to intercept the pass just before Stackhouse had a chance to shoot.
Albion gained a 3-0 lead with a goal in the 67th minute off of a set piece as a free kick from the right side of the zone was headed inside the left post for the three-goal advantage.
The Belles continued to battle down the stretch, however, and did not give up without a fight. Megan Saunders ran through a loose ball at the edge of the center circle before flicking a pass ahead for Jillian Bowen. Bowen took a touch before curling a shot toward the left post, but a falling save kept the ball from finding the back of the net. Saint Mary's built more and more pressure in the final 15 minutes of play. Rose Stackhouse won the ball back against a pair of defenders, and Bowen had a shot blocked up and over the crossbar for a corner kick - the first of five corner kicks for the Belles in the span of less than two minutes. The best scoring chance from that stretch of play came in the 80th minute. Emily Stross sent a cross into the box where the ball deflected toward the far post. Megan Saunders launched herself into the air and sent a header back across the front of the frame toward the right post, but a goal line clearance by an Albion center back saved a certain goal. Kellen Hinchey and Sophia Fleming each had shots blocked over the next minute of play. Stackhouse drew a foul near the endline on the left side of the field just a few moments later. Stackhouse took the ensuing free kick and sent it just outside of the six-yard box. Becca Stella was unmarked near the penalty spot, timed her jump, and headed in her second goal of the year to make it a 3-1 game with 8:56 to play.
Saint Mary's nearly cut further into the deficit in the 87th minute. Maddy Hansen slid a pass wide right for Sophia Fleming. Fleming then put a two-bounce pass at the feet of Megan Saunders, who sliced up the middle of the defense and shielded off an Albion player for a 1-v-1 with the Albion goalkeeper. Saunders tried to chip it beyond the keeper as she rushed off of her line, but the Albion netminder was able to get enough of a piece of the ball to deflect it wide of the goal as the game ended by the same 3-1 score.
Saint Mary's out-shot Albion by a 9-8 margin in the second half and added seven corners kicks to the Brits' one over the final 45 minutes of play.
Becca Stella scored her second goal of her career and season for the Belles. Rose Stackhouse added an assist on the goal. Thallia Robles made four saves over the final 46 minutes of play while Kam Lewkowski mad three saves over the opening 44 minutes of action.
The Belles (5-5, 0-1 MIAA) return to action next Wednesday, October 9 when they host Olivet at 7:00 p.m.