NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball team finished 33rd in the nation in the final NCAA RPI ratings, the highest ranking in the history of the program.
“It is really, really exciting for us to be able to say we finished in the top 35,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “We have been in the top 35 all year along. It shows how far we have come as a program.”
The Lady Bisons finished the season with a 41-15 record. Their .732 winning percentage was the 22nd best in NCAA Division I.
They were rated 36th in scoring with an average of 5.7 runs per game and 39th with a 2.31 earned run average.
They were second overall in the Atlantic Sun Conference and received the school’s first ever NCAA at-large bid. In the Knoxville Regional they finished 2-2 with a pair of wins over Charleston Southern, a two-game split with Virginia Tech and a 2-0 loss to host Tennessee.
The Lady Bisons were one of four A-Sun teams in the top 50 of the RPI. USC Upstate, the regular season conference champion, is 29th. Stetson, the conference tournament champion, is rated 35th. Mercer finished in 42nd place. Of the top four teams only Mercer failed to earn an NCAA Tournament berth.
It marked the second time the Lady Bisons had earned an NCAA berth. The 2010 team won the A-Sun Tournament and finished with a 50-13 record, the most wins in a season in the history of the program.
The 2010 team’s final RPI was 36th. That team featured six seniors.
“We had some really good younger players on that team, but we had to replace a lot,” Ryman said. “Those seniors that year had done so much to set the tone and shape the mentality of everyone in our program.
“When you lose all of that it takes some time to get it back. It is really cool for me to sit back as a coach and know we were able to get back to that point this year.”
Ryman’s 2014 team had seven seniors. Like the 2010 team there are starters returning, but a great deal of experience is gone once again.
“It is neat to sit back and reflect on where our program has been and where we are now knowing we were able to get back to that point (NCAA Tournament) and see the improvement in those seniors throughout their careers,” Ryman said. “The RPI is certainly a reflection of how hard everyone has worked.
“This goes way beyond me. This is program-wide with our players and our assistant coaches, the recruiting efforts we have made and the everyday efforts in practice. It was great to see it all come full circle again.”
Now the challenge is to stay on the level they attained this season.
“Every year our goal is to schedule tough, but you can’t just schedule tough,” Ryman said. “You have to win some of those games.”
Next year’s schedule is not final but Ryman expects to have 15-to-17 games against teams that were in the NCAA Tournament this year.
“When you can win a few of those games throughout the year that is when you start turning heads and start climbing in the ranks because you have proven you belong in the conversation,” Ryman said. “We feel like we belong. But that is something we want to prove every single year.”