May 9, 2008
DELAND, Fla. First, there was disbelief. Then there was the brief moment when time stands still before the realization hit.
The season ended somewhat abruptly for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons Thursday night here at the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. The No. 1-seeded Lady Bisons, who also tied for the regular season championship, lost 3-2 to Gardner-Webb to start the day and ended the tournament with a 3-2 loss to host Stetson at Patricia Wilson Field.
Players sat in a cluster on the ground and listened as coach Kristin Peck tried to put the disappointment into perspective. There were tears, then hugs and more hugs. There were acknowledgements about the successes of the season. Finally, there was talk of next year and hope for the future.
"This is the closest team that we have ever had," said Peck Thursday night. "We truly felt like we were a family this year. I think that speaks highly for our seniors Kim Jacobson and Heather Collins and what they have done their past four years and to Sara Simons and Jennifer Allsup who came in here as transfers and immediately became a part of that.
"We have such a diverse group of players. We have so many different personalities. Just about everyone spoke up while we were sitting out here and said something that hit home with everybody."
That closeness made the one-run losses even more difficult to swallow.
"It makes it harder when you lose whether it is a close game or not," Peck said. "They really felt like they left it all out on the field. We fought hard. We thought we deserved to win the Stetson game. We felt like we did enough to win and came up short.
"I really didn't know what to say to them after the game. They have worked hard. They have worked harder this year than they have ever worked. They invested so much into it. That makes if harder when you put more into it and you lose."
Peck pointed out that the closeness went beyond the players. She also thinks the parents of the players formed strong bonds as well.
"You look in the stands and the parents are hanging out together," Peck said. "That just makes our program stronger. That makes me excited because we have the majority of our team coming back."
Collins, minutes after playing her last college game, may have put it best when she addressed the team and said this was the year when she had the most pride in wearing a Lipscomb jersey.
Peck will say good-bye to Kim Jacobson, Allsup, Simons and Collins. Simons was only with the team for one season, transferring to Lipscomb in time for the spring semester. Simons time with the team might have been short, but her impact was strong.
"We are losing four good ones," Peck said. "Our seniors took it really hard. They have seen it change from 14 wins and not making the tournament to 29 wins, being the top seed and winning a conference championship.
"Simons was here for only one semester and what she has done for our program is more than anyone could have expected out o her. We knew she was talented, but we really didn't know a whole lot about what we were getting. She came in and brought maturity and brought us closer. She brought a presence that we needed and that is hard when you come into a situation where you don't know anybody. She stepped up in more ways than would show on the field to help the program."
Sophomore pitcher Alaina Jacobson, who like Simons transferred from Missouri, has also made a strong impact on the team, earning All-Atlantic Sun Second Team honors.
"Alaina came in and jumpstarted our pitching staff to work harder," Peck said. "She helped our pitching staff get more out of their talent."
Peck, the Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year, stressed to the players that despite the early exit from the tournament the Lady Bisons turned the corner as a program. They made their second straight trip to the tournament. They won their first regular season championship and finished with a 29-26 record, their best ever.
"After such a good year last year I think a lot of people wondered if we could continue that," Peck said. "We are not where we want to be yet, but we are moving in the right direction."