NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Few people like to be compared to someone else, even when it is a favorable one.
With the Lipscomb Lady Bisons making their second trip to the NCAA Tournament coach Kristin Ryman is not surprised that she is being asked to compare this year’s team with the 2010 team that played in the Tuscaloosa Regional.
This week the Lady Bisons are headed for the Knoxville Regional hosted by the University of Tennessee. They are scheduled to play Virginia Tech from the Atlantic Coast Conference at 2:30 p.m. Friday. Host Tennessee and Charleston Southern play in game two at 5 p.m.
“It is hard to compare the two,” Ryman said. “On any team the personnel is going to be different. Each team is going to have its strengths and weaknesses.
“They define two different eras. I know that neither team probably likes being compared to the other. There are a lot of similarities, but it is neat to see distinct differences as well.”
The Purple and Gold are 39-13 this season. The 2010 team finished with a 50-13 record, the best in the history of the program. They won both the Atlantic Sun regular season and tournament titles. In Tuscaloosa they beat UAB twice and then lost twice to Alabama, the host and the No. 1 seed in the country.
This week the Lady Bisons are 32nd in the NCAA RPI. The 2010 team was 36th at the end of the year.
“The highest RPI we got was 36th in 2010 and this year we have been as high as 28th,” Ryman said. “Our RPI this year has not dropped below 35.
“It is interesting to compare the two. It would have been neat to see that 2010 group play a tougher schedule. I think this year we have played a much tougher schedule than we did in 2010. The conference as a whole is much stronger now than in 2010 and that makes a difference.”
The two teams show differences from an offensive standpoint. The 2010 team batted .320 with 57 home runs and 292 runs batted in. The 2014 team is hitting .298 with 259 RBI and 39 homers. The 2014 team has also stolen 59 bases.
“Offensively, from top to bottom, the 2010 team at this point of the year was probably stronger,” Ryman said. “This year’s group is just as dynamic offensively with just as much power potential and a little more speed potential.
“The 2010 team was more power-oriented. We have more speed now.”
Both teams have grown together through the seasons. The 2014 team has seven seniors. The 2010 team had six seniors.
“They both have a lot of players who have started since their freshman year,” Ryman said. “Both have broken a lot of records individually and as a team.
“When you do it once you want to go back. But you wonder if you can ever be that good again. This team has proven that we can do it again. We are winning games and producing on the field.”
The 2010 pitching staff – Whitney Kiihnl, Christen Campbell and Alaina Jacobson – all saw a lot of time in the circle and offered three different styles of pitching.
“They all three threw a good number of innings, but Whitney was our No. 1 pitcher,” Ryman said. “Everyone knew we were going to put the ball in her hand a decent amount of the time.
“I think this year’s pitching staff is kind of the same way. We have Ashley Anderson who has emerged as the No. 1 pitcher. But we also have Tanner Sanders and Heather Parker who are both very good. As a staff they have really done a great job. You don’t have this much success over the course of a season without having a good pitching staff.”
Another area where the two teams are different is in the overall personality.
“The 2010 team had players like Abby Keese, Campbell and Kellie Sirus. Christen didn’t say a whole lot, but she was a go-getter. Kellie stepped into a leadership role. Jacobson could be a little quiet but she was as feisty as all get-out. They had some dominating personalities.
“This year’s team is so much more chill. That is maybe the best word I can come up with to describe them as a group. It doesn’t mean they don’t work hard. It doesn’t mean they are too lax in their approach. But they are just kind of laid back. They show up and do what they need to do.”
Ryman thinks this year’s team might be closer than the 2010 team.
“We have some different personalities now, but there is more of similarity between them,” Ryman said. “In that 2010 group we had a big dynamic in personalities. But it was fun. It added something different.”
Ryman is the only person on the team that was a part of the 2010 team.
“I think and reminisce about that 2010 team because at that point they were the best team we had ever had,” Ryman said. “Every group since then, as respectful as they are to that 2010 group, there is always a little bit of envy there.
“Every team since has wanted to be up in those ranks because that is the group that everyone is compared to whether they like it or not or whether I like it or not. Once they set that standard you want to find ways to stay at that level.”