May 6, 2008
DeLand, Fla. _ The Lipscomb Lady Bisons are back in the Atlantic Sun Tournament for the second year in a row and this time they have packed a little heavier.
Last year their visit to the tournament lasted one day with a 3-2 loss to ETSU and a 4-0 loss to tournament host Stetson. Their goal this time is to be in the championship game Saturday.
This time around the Lady Bisons enter the tournament with share of the regular season title and the No. 1 seed. They flew here Tuesday. They are scheduled to practice at Patricia Wilson Field at Stetson Wednesday. They open the tournament Thursday at 10 a.m. against No. 6 seeded Gardner-Webb.
Coach Kristin Peck thinks the experiences of last season will be a big motivational factor.
"The fact that we went last year and didn't have the outcome that we wanted makes us even hungrier this year," Peck said. "The fact that we are going in as the regular season champion makes us that much more motivated as to what we want out of this. Do we just want to be the regular season champion or do we want a chance to go to an NCAA regional"
"It also means a lot from a leadership standpoint having so many players on this team that have been before. We left last year with a really bad taste in our mouths. We have done the hard work to put ourselves in the position to be a No/1 seed. We don't want that to disappear in two days."
For Peck, first baseman Heather Collins and pitcher Kim Jacobson this is the third time in four years to play in the A-Sun Tournament. The Lady Bisons have not won a game in postseason play in those previous two trips.
"When we went to the first one something we talked about how everybody stepped it up for the tournament," Peck said. "We can't go into the tournament with the same mindset that you went into games during the regular season.
"There is more intensity involved. There is more emotion involved. Everybody is playing their best or attempting to play at their best. We can't expect to just walk out on the field and walk away with it."
Peck thinks that this season's team is peaking at the right time for the tournament, but she also knows that other teams, especially Stetson, are also playing their best at this stage of the season,
"Last year we had a great start to the season, but we kind of hit a lull halfway through," Peck said. "We didn't get it done the second half of the season as much as we should have. This year's team is peaking at the right time.
"We have exhausted the idea that we have a job to do. Other teams are absolutely playing well coming into the tournament. Our players understand what is at stake."
The biggest challenge for the coaching staff is to keep the team focused. The state of Florida is a distraction in many ways with the beach and water beckoning. Many parents also attend the tournament, something that Peck encourages, but oftentimes it has been awhile since some of the players have been with their parents.
"All the teams stay at the same hotel," Peck said. "The parents are there. As coaches we have to make sure that the players maintain their focus. Every coach is telling their players the same thing right now.
"We have an opportunity here. It is a big opportunity. We are going to try to keep them away from all of the hustle and bustle of what is going on. I don't think our players are going to let that slip away this year."