Friday, September 26, 2008
The Lipscomb Lady Bisons are in Florida this weekend, but it isn’t going to be a vacation.
When they boarded an airplane for Jacksonville Friday evening they carried a five-game winning streak (four in a row in Atlantic Sun games) and a perfect 12-0 record in A-Sun sets in four matches. Friday they will challenge North Florida at 6 and Saturday they face Jacksonville at 4.
“Playing the combination of these two teams on the road is a tough challenge,” said Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal. “And that is to not take anything away from Belmont, ETSU, Upstate or Campbell. It is the combination of the travel and the competition. That’s why I was so excited to come of there with two wins last year.
“Both of those teams have played extremely well. They are at the top of the conference which I predicted. So even before the season started we knew this was going to be a tough trip. I imagine this is like other teams feel when they have to come to Nashville to play Lipscomb and Belmont.”
This will be the first time the Lady Bisons have played Jacksonville since beating them 3-0 in the finals of the A-Sun Tournament and earning their first trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“We have never really talked about that,” Rosenthal said. “The significance is there. But our approach will be it is just another match and that we will have to bring our best.
“Both UNF and Jacksonville are going to score points. We have to go out there and not worry about anything except leaving it all out there on the floor.”
Despite the early success of the team Rosenthal stresses that with the new double-round robin format only a fifth of the A-Sun matches have been played.
“It is going to be a long season,” Rosenthal said. “We have been away from home for awhile already.”
As he passed mile after mile of farmland on a trip to St. Louis by himself on a recruiting trip he had a great deal of time to think about just how long the season will be.
“We still have 16 matches,” Rosenthal said. “Thinking about it on the trip didn’t shock me, but it definitely opened my eyes.”
The Lady Bisons have counted on every member of the team to play a role this season. But two of the biggest leaders have been senior libero Jessica Turner and junior opposite Erin Pierce.
“Jess is more of a quiet leader,” Rosenthal said. “Especially when you compare her to our former libero, Ann Mullins. Ann was a different type of leader. We encourage our players to be who they are on the court.”
Pierce’s statistics are not going to dazzle many people, but what she brings to the team cannot really be measured in numbers.
“Erin has just played tremendously,” said Rosenthal. “She is more of a vocal leader. She has really done a nice job of setting the tone. We don’t need her to be a highlight reel player. We need her to do the small things.
“The big difference from last year to this year for Erin is just her consistency of play all the way around. She brought a lot to the table offensively last year, but struggled a bit defensively. This year she has been the X factor. She passes the ball well and continues to make some really hard plays look routine.”
Also taking the lead are sophomore middle blocker Alex Kelly and sophomore setter Jake Pease.
“They are just as talented as they were as freshmen, but it is what they do with their talent,” Rosenthal said. “They both realize they are being counted on even more than they were last season.”
The Lady Bisons are tied with Florida Gulf Coast for the conference lead. Both have identical 4-0 A-Sun marks. The Lady Bisons are 6-6 overall and Florida Gulf Coast is 5-5 overall.
Jacksonville and North Florida are tied for third with identical 4-1 A-Sun records. Jacksonville is 7-4 overall. North Florida is 6-4.