Lipscomb volleyball coach Brandon Rosenthal always likes his Lady Bisons to face tough competition.
And this around he didn’t have to go very far to find it.
Friday at noon at Alumni Memorial Gym, the Lady Bisons (1-3) will play host Middle Tennessee State (3-0) from the Sunbelt Conference in Murfreesboro. It is the first of three matches in the Blue Raider Bash. MTSU is rated No. 15 nationally in the AVCA poll.
“MTSU has done a great job over the past four or five years of recruiting some tremendous athletes,” said Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal. “And they have gotten the non-traditional volleyball players with raw athleticism.
“Their coaches do a good job of really getting them to understand their system and play within their system. They are very fast. As fast as we are, they are that much faster. It should be a really fun match.”
Friday at 5 the Lady Bisons will face Loyola Marymount (2-1) for the first time in the history of the program. They close out the tournament Saturday at noon when they face Florida International.
“The caliber of the teams is right where we want to be,” said Rosenthal. “I’ve always liked to challenge my teams early on.
“We have never been one to run from competition. We are going to continue to challenge ourselves. All in all it is a great tournament for us to be in.”
The Lady Bisons opened the season with three losses in the Comfort Inn and Suites Classic at Morehead State. They are coming off a 3-1 win Tuesday night against Austin Peay from the Ohio Valley Conference.
“We have talked about carrying over that intensity and the drive we had over at Austin Peay,” Rosenthal said. “Jake Pease and Amy Trykowski made a good connection on the court.”
Both MTSU and Lipscomb played last season in the NCAA Tournament.
“MTSU had an unbelievable year and they are off to a great start again,” Rosenthal. “We want to play these types of teams, especially when they are close by.
“RPI-wise this is a tough challenge. We understand that whatever happens we have to play as hard as we can and play our game. I don’t think our players are nervous at all. They just want to go out and play.”
Rosenthal stresses that the Lady Bisons must be careful and not compare themselves to the MTSU program.
“The big thing for us is to stay within our progression and understand it is going to take time,” Rosenthal said. “We have to be patient.
“The problem is when we start to compare ourselves to teams like MTSU. That is not to say we are never going to overachieve. I think we have done well at that. But the history and tradition will all come with time.”
Loyola Marymount is a familiar foe even thought the Lady Bisons have never faced them in volleyball. Brandon Higa, one of Rosenthal’s best friends, has been a volunteer coach for Loyola Marymount. He also has worked with the Lipscomb program.
“I have talked with Brandon a lot and I know their coaches,” Rosenthal said. “Most of their players are from California. There is a different feel for their team. They are taller than most teams we face.”
Rosenthal also expects a strong challenge from Florida International.
“FIU has really been on the rise the last couple of years,” Rosenthal said. “They have some great players who have taken their program to the next level.”
The tournament is the final tune-up for the Lady Bisons before they play host to Belmont Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Allen Arena in the Atlantic Sun opener. The Lady Bisons beat Belmont in the semifinals of t he A-Sun Tournament last season in Macon, Ga. The Lady Bisons beat Jacksonville in the finals to earn their first Atlantic Sun Championship and the NCAA berth.
“I’ve always felt that playing better competition helps us be better prepared for conference play,” Rosenthal said. “I don’t if either one of us wants to play the other so early.”