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Lipscomb (18-7, 12-3 A-Sun)
ETSU (20-7, 14-1 A-Sun)
11/8/2013 | Johnson City, Tenn. | Attendance: 442
Lipscomb (19-7, 13-3 A-Sun)
USC Upstate (4-22, 3-13, A-Sun)
11/9/2013 | Spartanburg, S.C. | Attendance: 135
Thursday, November 07, 2013
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – A share of first place is on the line for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons.
Friday night they face ETSU at Brooks Gym at 6 p.m. ETSU is first in the Atlantic Sun Conference with a 13-1 record. The Lady Bisons are tied for second with Jacksonville with a 12-2 conference mark.
The Lady Bisons have not lost a match since dropping a 3-2 decision to ETSU at Allen Arena Oct. 5. The Lady Bisons bring a nine-game winning streak into the rematch. ETSU has won its last six matches. The Lady Bisons are 4-1 in their last five matches at ETSU.
“This is exactly what we have had our eyes on since we lost to them,” Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “We talked about getting the opportunity to be in this situation and here we are.
“At the time of our loss we didn’t know if ETSU would have a loss when we met them again. But we knew they had to go to Jacksonville. This is all part of the process. It is going to come down to the team that is the most aggressive.”
The Lady Bisons are ranked 74th nationally in the RPI ratings. ETSU is rated 83rd.
“There is a lot of respect for who they are and their competitiveness,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a great match up.
“Both teams will benefit from this week in the RPI. It helps more to win, but when both teams are in the top 100 it helps both teams, win or lose.”
The Lady Bisons, ETSU and Jacksonville have all qualified for A-Sun tournament berths. The winner of the tournament gets the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“Win or lose against ETSU we are still in control,” Rosenthal said. “If the regular season determined the champion it would be a little bit different, but we understand that it doesn’t.
“We understand that this is a pivotal match in determining who is going to win the regular season championship. That is one of our goals. That is one of ETSU’s goals. “
The Spitznagle effect
One difference in the Purple and Gold since the last time the two teams met is that middle blocker Molly Spitznagle is back in the lineup. She missed the earlier match due to an ankle injury.
“I think she makes a huge difference,” Rosenthal said. “She makes a difference in our ability to attack in the middle. You have to pay attention to Molly.”
Spitznagle also helps the blocking ability of the Lady Bisons.
“We have done a great job of blocking since then,” Rosenthal said. “It has been noticeably better.”
Nationally, the Purple and Gold continue to lead the NCAA in kills per set with 15.39. They are third in assists per set with 14.32. Their .276 hitting percentage is 15th in the nation.
Individually, setter Caitlin “Dot” Dotson remains No. 1 in the nation in assists per set with 12.76.
Middle blocker Jewell Dobson is sixth in points per set with 5.3 and seventh in kills per set with 4.7.
Spitznagle is 28th in the nation with a .399 hitting percentage. Dobson is 31st with a .396 hitting percentage. They are ranked first and second, respectively, in the A-Sun.
Outside hitter Megan Devine and middle blocker Meredith Hardy are the two leaders for ETSU.
“ETSU is a lot like we are,” Rosenthal said. “They have multiple weapons and a balanced attack.
“We are going to take a poker playing mentality into this weekend. We are pushing all of the chips in. We are going to roll up our sleeves and go for it.”
Rosenthal also thinks ETSU outside hitter Ivey Rice is underrated.
“Ivey Rice is one of those players who completely flies under the radar,” Rosenthal said. “But after watching some of their matches I can tell you right now that Ivey is the reason why they have won some of these close matches.
“She goes about her business in a blue collar way. She gets the job done”
Rosenthal also stresses the importance of setter Jamie Rutledge to ETSU.
“Rutledge is a winner,” Rosenthal said. “She has proven she knows how to win.”
The Lady Bisons travel to Spartanburg, S.C., to face USC Upstate at 2 p.m. Saturday.