Thursday, October 02, 2008
Every weekend has been a big one so far for the Lady Bisons volleyball team.
This one is no different, but for one exception. The Lady Bisons are back at home at Allen Arena Friday night at 7 to face Stetson (0-6, 2-11) and Saturday at 5 to play Florida Gulf Coast (6-0, 7-5). The Lady Bisons (6-0, 8-6) have played their last four matches on the road.
They enter the Stetson match tied with Florida Gulf Coast for first in the Atlantic Sun Conference. They have won their last six regular season A-Sun matches, tying the school record and have won seven consecutive matches overall.
“We have to realize we still have a lot more season left,” said Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal. “Everybody is facing that. The reason it is magnified for us is we have never been at the top before.
“We’ll win this weekend if we deserve to win. We can’t expect anybody to come in here and just roll over. That is not the way our conference is. And it not the way volleyball is. You have to go out and work and make it happen.”
Rosenthal has been reluctant to talk with his players very much about life at the top of the conference.
“Being at the top brings different challenges that we have never faced before,” Rosenthal said. “But I love being there.
“It’s a challenge in the sense that we have to stay focused. It’s a challenge in a sense that we have to play one match at a time.”
Rosenthal has been forced to look at different ways to prepare his team for matches.
“It’s fun,” Rosenthal said. “For me, every day is something new in trying to find another angle. In years past it was up against the world so go out there and shock this team. Now there has to be a much different spin.
“We still have many challenges here that I have been determined were not going to stop us. It is a matter of whether you want something bad enough or not. And if you do, quit complaining and go make something happen. At the end you aren’t going to be disappointed if you leave it all out there and do your best.”
One concern for Rosenthal is to make sure his players don’t forget the foundations of the program that produced this success over a period of six years.
“Wednesday’s practice was about out working the other team, whether it is Stetson or Florida Gulf Coast, from the first point to the last point of each set.
“Defense is a mindset. If you want to be the best defensive team you can be, but every day in practice that is what you have to emphasize. As much success as we have had so far we are still stuck in our roots. It is all blue collar. I hope we never get away from that.”
Stetson has struggled some this season, but Rosenthal is determined that his players will not overlook them.
“Stetson is a unique challenge,” Rosenthal said. “Their team is hungry. They probably haven’t started the conference season the way they wanted to.
“They are very capable. They do some things on offense that we don’t see in practice on a daily basis. We’ve got to stay focused and run our offense and play our defense.”
Florida Gulf Coast is still not eligible for the conference tournament due to NCAA rules as they make the transition to Division I status. However, Florida Gulf Coast did win the regular season championship. The only blemish on their conference record was a loss to the Lady Bisons.
“They have a different team and a different coach,” Rosenthal said. “But there are enough of their players back from last year. And every time they talk about winning the conference they know they lost one match to us.
“It is a collision course. Other coaches will be watching what Florida Gulf Coast is doing this weekend. I think there is a sense we belong at the top. Now it is another challenge.”