NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Confident leader. Relentless warrior. Brave mainstay.
These are just some of the descriptions that fit setter Caitlin “Dot” Dotson, defensive specialist Stephanie Rex and middle blocker Claire Peterson. There is still volleyball to be played, but Friday this trio of Lipscomb seniors will be honored on “Senior Night”.
The ceremony will be part of the Atlantic Sun match with Stetson which begins at 6:30 at Allen Arena. The Lady Bisons are 19-7, 13-3 in the conference. Stetson is 18-13, 9-7 in the A-Sun.
“It is always kind of bittersweet when you get to this point of the season as a coach,” Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this group of girls.”
Dotson will leave a legacy both on and off of the court. She has spent most of the season as the leader nationally in NCAA Division I in assists per set. She is serving her second season as one of the team captains.
Off the court she has posted a 3.79 grade point average with plans to become a physician’s assistant. She also spearheaded the development of a mentorship program for athletes called “Linked Lipscomb” which teams athletes with leaders who can guide them in their chosen career fields.
She was the A-Sun Scholar Athlete in volleyball in 2011 and 2012.
“Dot is one of those players who has been a leader since day one,” Rosenthal said. “The success that she has had is a tribute to her and the way she has approached practice every day.”
She will leave the program ranked No. 2 in career assists. She is only 82 assists away from becoming only the second player in the NCAA era to reach 3,000. She will finish in the top six in digs, becoming only the eighth player in the NCAA era to make 1,000 or more digs.
Her career has been defined by her confidence both on and off of the court. As a freshman she played behind Stefine “Jake” Pease, the all-time assists leader for the Lady Bisons. Her sophomore season she split time as the setter position with Abby Fay. As a junior she took control of the position and led the conference in assists per set. She also ranked eighth in the nation.
“I think her confidence is huge,” Rosenthal said. “She has been a fun one to work with. She has the ability to bring people together. The last three years have been some of the tightest teams we have had.
“There is something about her. She is a person that the players all truly enjoy being around.”
“Claire Peterson is an absolute warrior,” Rosenthal said. “I think that really is the best term I can use.
“If she was a pro, she would be the consummate pro. She is a person that we have never once had to worry about if they were going to bring their absolute best every day.”
For Peterson that has been a special challenge at times. She has endured her share of injuries but has always recovered and will complete her career as an active member of the team.
“I know there are days that physically she has been limited or challenged, but she has never let that stop her,” Rosenthal said. “As a teammate Claire has been amazing.”
Peterson has played a variety of roles with the Lady Bisons from the right side to middle blocker. She is also known for her defensive skills.
Rosenthal stresses that Peterson has always given her best, not for herself, but for her teammates.
“Claire Is somebody our girls have always counted on and will always be able to count on,” Rosenthal said. “She has a different personality than Dot. But she has always been there for the girls and the coaching staff. She will do whatever it takes.
“When you take a look at what she has done as a player the underlying piece of it all is not many people have the ability or flexibility to do what she has done. She continues to play whatever position you need.”
Injuries are a part of any sport, but Rosenthal regrets that Peterson has dealt with nagging pain at times.
“It is unfortunate that anybody has to go through injuries,” Rosenthal said. “Never once has she called attention to her injuries. She has never asked for a break. She has never said, `I can’t do this’.
“She has endured. It is neat to see somebody who gives their all every day and never holds back. She is a special person.”
Rosenthal admits that he sometimes wonders where Peterson would rank in the statistical history of the team, but he doesn’t dwell on it because he knows Peterson doesn’t worry about it
“That is not what Claire is about,” Rosenthal said. “She never has been and never will be.
“I don’t think at any point I would ever want to know that (her possible stats). Because I think that would be a misrepresentation of her. She is so humble. She is a team first person which is exactly what she is in real life.”
Peterson is also an outstanding student with a 3.97 in interdisciplinary teaching.
“She is a tremendous student,” Rosenthal said. “But you would never know about it because she never talks about her grades.
“She is a pro. When I say that I say it with all respect. At any time she could have said it was all too much but she never has and never will.”
“Rex has been a huge part of our program statistically and in terms of the number of wins,” Rosenthal said. “She has been a mainstay in our back row.”
Rex will finish second on the team in career digs in the NCAA era with more than 1,200.
“She has done an unbelievable job when you think about all that she has accomplished,” Rosenthal said. “Every year she has been a constant. She is pretty special.
“She has never shied away from a big game. When you look at her numbers, the big games are usually her biggest.”
Rex is known for her quiet and calm demeanor. As a freshman in 2010 she was surrounded by dynamic teammates such as Pease, Alex Kelly and Meghan Hinemeyer.
“She was put into an explosive team,” Rosenthal said. “When I say explosive, I mean there were a lot of big personalities that could have scared any freshman away.”
Rex is the first volleyball player to pursue a major in nursing and is on course to complete her degree.
“It has been a challenge,” Rosenthal said. “Rex has really taken that challenge head on and taken the responsibility of not allowing it to be an excuse.
“She has brought a lot to our program. She is a quiet person. Sometimes as she gets even quieter I know she is getting down to business.”
The Purple and Gold are in third place in the conference, but they are still in the running for a first round bye in the tournament. Stetson and FGCU stand in their way.
“We have to go out and do a little more than just win,” Rosenthal said. “We have to go out and impose our will. Whatever that might look like, we need to do it.
“I believe we have the ability to be a dominant team. We have not shown that through a whole match. We have shown that in points in a match. We have shown that in sets in a match. We have not shown that from start to finish in a match.”
Rosenthal knows what it is like to have dominant teams and he wants to see that from his team in the final matches of the regular season and extending into the tournament.
“I long for that,” Rosenthal said. “We have three losses in the conference. All three came with players out. We would like to go with our full allotment of players and say here are our best players and your best players so let’s go.”
Rosenthal admits that his team still has work to do despite the lateness of the hour.
“We came home last weekend understanding that we need to execute,” Rosenthal said. “Stetson is one of those teams that is extremely hot right now.
“They are coming in with very little or no fear whatsoever. And rightly so. They have had a great season.”