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North Florida (7-15, 3-7 A-Sun)
Lipscomb (15-6, 9-2 A-Sun)
10/25/2013 | Nashville, Tenn. | Attendance: 166
Jacksonville (20-3, 10-2 A-Sun)
Lipscomb (16-6, 10-2 A-Sun)
10/26/2013 | Nashville, Tenn. | Attendance: 185
Thursday, October 24, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Leadership comes with consistency.
The late Junior Seau, former football player and part-time philosopher, is credited with that observation. It is a statement that is so relevant to the Lipscomb Lady Bisons volleyball team as well as they prepare to open the second half of the Atlantic Sun season this week.
The Lady Bisons will play North Florida, 7-14 overall, 3-6 in the conference, at Allen Arena Friday night at 6:30.Saturday they face Jacksonville, 19-2, 9-1. The Lady Bisons beat North Florida on the road 3-0 Oct. 28. They lost 3-1 at Jacksonville Oct. 27.
“We are ready to go,” Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “We are at that point in the season where everybody is a little bit tired. It becomes a matter of who is going to fight for this.
“When you have two tough matches like we have this weekend there is plenty of room to be nervous. But at the same time these girls have proven throughout this year that they can handle it.”
By the numbers
This week’s RPI ranking has the Lady Bisons, 14-6, 8-2 in the A-Sun, rated 85th in NCAA Division I. ETSU is ranked 93rd. They are the only two A-Sun teams in the top 100.
The Lady Bisons remain in first place nationally in assists per set with 14.59 and kills per set with 15.69. They are 13th with a .278 hitting percentage.
Individually, setter Caitlin “Dot” Dotson retains the top spot nationally in assists per set with 12.94.
Middle blocker Jewell Dobson is fifth with 5.43 points per set and sixth with 4.81 kills per set. Dobson is ranked 28th with a .399 hitting percentage.
Outside hitter Lauren Ford is 31st in kills per set with 4.10.
Rosenthal takes more stock in the wins and losses of his team than he does the rankings, but he admits that the numbers are an indication of how consistent the Lady Bisons are playing.
“The numbers translate to consistent play,” Rosenthal said. “Minus the loss at Jacksonville, where I think we kind of let down, we have played exceptionally well at a high level. Even late in sets, when we have given up leads, we have come back to win them.
“We are playing more under control. We are taking things as they are given to us.”
“Dot” is model of consistency
Rosenthal gives much of the credit for the consistent play to Dotson.
“When you talk about consistency you have to look at the setter first because the setter is the one that is delivering the ball,” Rosenthal said. “What has happened as the year has gone on is Dot understands her hitters and what positions to put them in.
“She has done a really good job of taking the game plan and executing it. Dot and I have a good relationship and an understanding of what we are both trying to do. She has done a fantastic job. I am really proud of her.”
In third place in the conference behind ETSU and Jacksonville, Rosenthal likes where his team is at this stage of the season.
“I feel like we are in a great spot,” Rosenthal said. “I feel like we are playing exceptionally well right now.
“We are really starting to hit our stride. We are getting into that zone where we are starting to play better and better every time out. I was really impressed with the results of the match against Stetson, but I was just as impressed with our focus. That is a good indication of what we are capable of doing.”
Turning up the pressure
Aggressiveness has been a key word for the Lady Bisons all season and Rosenthal has seen his team reach higher levels in that area.
“When we want to we can really turn it on,” Rosenthal said. “When I say that, I mean we are able to cause some problems at the net blocking-wise when we want to do it.
“I think our defense to transition offense is really good. In the first set alone against Stetson we had 21 kills and no errors. We are eliminating our hitting errors which I think is important.”
Libero Bri McCombs, playing her first season with the Purple and Gold after transferring from Middle Tennessee State, has made an immediate impact on the defense.
McCombs is second in the conference with 4.28 digs per set overall and second in A-Sun games only with 4.74. The Lady Bisons are second overall in the conference with 15.16 digs per set and second in A-Sun games only with 16.22.
“I believe Bri is the best libero in the conference,” Rosenthal said. “I don’t have any problems saying that. She does a nice job. She will continue to get better as she gets more and more comfortable.”
While most of the defense focuses on the libero Rosenthal stresses that Dotson, defensive specialist Stephanie Rex and setter Kayla Ostrom also play vital roles.
“For our numbers to be where they are at in the nation our defense has to be good,” Rosenthal said. “Our serve/receive has to be good.
“In serve/receive usually the libero doesn’t get serves. You have to give credit to our main passers - Sophie Kellerman, Rex and Bri.”
UNF offers challenges
Rosenthal expects a strong challenge from North Florida.
“UNF is doing some things now blocking-wise that can create some problems for us,” Rosenthal said. “UNF is fighting to stay in the hunt.
“Steve Loeswick, their coach, does a fantastic job with them. He is someone I respect and truly enjoying coaching against. Anytime they really get it going, you have to watch out.”
Outside hitter Anna Budinska leads North Florida in kills with 271, 3.71 per set. Middle blocker Cameron McGuire has 166 kills and is averaging 1.09 blocks per set.
“Budinska is their go-to player,” Rosenthal said. “But I really like McGuire in the middle. She is really starting to establish herself. She has long arms and is really quick off the ground. We have to be aware of both of those players at all times.”
Friday night’s game will be televised on ESPN3 and A-Sun TV.