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Lady Bisons sweep Mercer to close out regular season
Jake Pease
Jake Pease

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Lady Bisons closed out the regular season in a convincing fashion with a 3-0 match win over Mercer Saturday afternoon at Allen Arena.

It was the 20th win of the season for the Lady Bisons, matching the program record set last season. That total also included three victories in the Atlantic Sun Tournament.

“We’re still a young program and smaller milestones for us are huge as far as recruiting and as far as establishing who we are,” said Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal. “It gets harder every year to reach your goals.”

Rosenthal credited the character of his team for overcoming some unexpected rough spots on the way to another 20-win season.

“For our players to put together the season they have already is just phenomenal,” said Rosenthal. “Dean Webb, the Belmont coach, and I have talked about this. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you realize what you have to go through to get 20 wins in a regular season then it is an awesome achievement.

“It is a goal every year for us for the program to grow. You can’t foretell the unexpected things. It is how teams respond and I am proud of how our players have responded time after time this year.”

The Lady Bisons won by scores of 25-17, 25-20 and 25-17.

Next week the Lady Bisons head to Mercer’s campus in Macon, Ga., to defend their Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship. The Lady Bisons are the No. 1 seed and have earned a bye in the quarterfinals. They will play in the semifinals round Friday. The championship game is scheduled for Saturday.

It was the third 3-0 match sweep in a row for the Lady Bisons and their fourth in the last five games. They have won 11 matches by 3-0 scores this season.

“We hit a part of the season where I didn’t think we played well at all through four matches,” said Rosenthal. “We won three and lost to Tennessee State. That’s when we had a heart-to-heart to the team. We had to refocus. We did some things that grabbed their attention and got back on track.

“Going into the tournament you want to build. We started talking about building three weeks ago. I think we finished the regular season at a good pace.”

Senior libero Jessica Turner was honored on “Senior” Day. She also was recognized for reaching the 1,000-dig total for her career. Turner reached the milestone Nov. 11 in a match against ETSU.

Turner made 17 digs in her final game in front of a home crowd. She was one of the first recruits for Rosenthal.

“Jess has been truly instrumental in the success of this program,” said Rosenthal. “We have asked her to play many roles in her four years, but she has never backed down from a challenge and she has always put her team first.

“I have coached Jess since 17-year-old club volleyball, and it has been an awesome opportunity to watch her grow as a player and a person. Jessica’s success is a tribute to her dedication and work ethic. She has been a steady force in this program and she will be dearly missed.”

For the match setter Jake Pease added 13 digs and also made 33 assists.

Middle blocker Alex Kelly made 14 kills and added a .480 hitting percentage.

“Jake really set the pace for us,” said Rosenthal. “There were some pretty gutty performances.

“Our middles did a fantastic job. I thought our passing was tremendous throughout the match.”

Libby Hansch made 10 kills to lead Mercer. Claire Tucker made a match-high 24 digs. Karen Dorris made 17 digs.

The Lady Bisons are taking Sunday and Monday off. They will practice Tuesday in Nashville. They will travel to Kennesaw State Wednesday and work out there. They will be in Macon on Thursday for the banquet and the first match of the tournament.

“We want to keep the team fresh,” said Rosenthal.