NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Ahead of schedule.
Lipscomb volleyball coach Brandon Rosenthal couldn’t help but smile when he made that statement after watching his players go through a five-set intra-squad scrimmage Saturday morning at Allen Arena..
“I thought it was a good total team effort from all 15 girls,” Rosenthal said. “I think that we are a little bit ahead of where I expected us to be.
“I think we’re ahead in the team production and the team understanding of what we are trying to do. That is always a good thing, especially since we are going in early this season against some big name teams.”
Rosenthal admitted he didn’t anticipate such a solid performance based on the previous four days of practice.
“I was a little worried that we weren’t going to be invested enough on offense,” Rosenthal said. “I don’t know whether the scrimmage was the result of worry about that or because it was game time. I thought we did a nice job.
“Our outside hitters did a really nice job of challenging the blocks. I thought all of our middles really showed their speed. I think speed kills and it showed. In the end speed won. That was really neat to see.”
Rosenthal attributed the previous practice struggles to the physical and mental challenges of preseason training.
“It was probably what a lot of teams go through in the middle of preseason – sore shoulders, tired legs and mental and physical fatigue,” Rosenthal said. “As a coach, you try to do everything right. There really isn’t a formula to it.
“We try to restructure practices where we are not using our shoulders a lot and not jumping a lot. At some point, though, you have to play.”
Assistant coach Ann Armes participated in the scrimmage as a player and was able to provide information with a different perspective.
“Ann has played in practice, but it is a different setting when you are playing in a scrimmage,” Rosenthal said. “She came off the court and made the comment to me that it was fast. She said trying to stop it was very uncomfortable for her.
“Ann is a pretty good blocker. But the talent of the players, the effort and the speed changed things.”
Rosenthal is expecting his middle blockers to become more of a factor on offense this season. He liked what he saw from all four of them – freshmen Maggie Allen and Katie Bradley, sophomore Molly Spitznagle and junior Jewell Dobson.
“We got some unexpected production out of the freshmen middles,” Rosenthal said. “I thought Maggie and Katie did a really nice job. They really started to show their speed.
“Jewell and Molly played tremendous. It is going to be fun to see what they do this season.”
Rosenthal also praised the work of outside hitters Lauren Ford and Sophie Kellerman, both juniors, along with senior Claire Peterson.
“Claire did a really fantastic job,” Rosenthal said. “She has been working hard on changing the angles of her shots. She is not going to get monstrous kills, but they still go down in the book as kills.”
Setters Caitlin Dotson, a senior, and freshman Kayla Ostrom both were solid.
“Kayla has jumped into a system like ours and has a pretty good grasp of it early,” Rosenthal said. “I was impressed.”
Blocking and finding new ways to score are two areas of emphasis in preseason.
“I thought our offensive flow moved pretty well today, especially in transition,” Rosenthal said. “I thought the rhythm of the games was good.
“I thought the blocking did a nice job. We typically don’t block all that many balls so anything on top of what we have done before will be bonus points.”
Classes for the fall semester begin Monday. For the first time he can remember in his 11 seasons as head coach Rosenthal will still be in preseason workouts with his players when classes begin.
The regular season opens Aug. 30 and 31 at the Bulldog Invitational at the University of Georgia. The Lady Bisons will face the host team as well as Furman and Texas Christian.