This spring the Lady Bisons have been working hard, playing a few tournaments and improving their individual play.
“We want individual development and team development in the spring,” said Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal. “Whether we win or lose in the spring is not a factor. Who we beat is more of a factor in establishing a new identity for this team.
“We only lost one senior (Jessica Turner), but we had a couple of people quit and one player transfer. We never really had an identity toward the end of the year and that caught up with us. But, that being said, we had an awesome year.”
The Lady Bisons have played Belmont, Alabama, Western Kentucky and Virginia Tech.
“It’s great to see the passion the team is playing with,” said Rosenthal. “We accepted the challenge. We beat Alabama and that was fun. We played Western Kentucky, a team we are going to play next fall and I thought our players were not satisfied with just competing. Virginia Tech is obviously a pretty good team. I have been real happy with our players so far.
“We have gone through some early morning sessions. Those are never easy. But we have played some very good volleyball in those sessions.”
The fact that the team is unchanged for the most part from last season has allowed Rosenthal and his assistants, Samantha Sullivan and Ann Mullins, to take a different approach.
“In years past we have been missing players at key positions in the spring,” said Rosenthal. “We have every position covered now. We can move forward. There is no holding back. We are working on some team-building aspects and that message isn’t going to get lost.
“We are bringing in four freshmen in the fall. And they will be taught by these players who are going through this during the spring. I like that” Elly Kaiser and Erin Pierce have been two of the standouts for the Lady Bisons in their spring games. Pierce, an opposite on the court, will be a senior in the fall.
“I think anytime you see us making a play you will find Erin making the play or being a part of the play. She has been a really consistent player this spring. Erin has done well the past year really understanding what we are doing and becoming a disciplined player.”
Kaiser, a rising junior defensive specialist-libero who made the transition to the Lady Bisons last season after transferring from Illinois State, has taken giant steps this spring both offensively and defensively.
“Illinois State played a different style of defense and passed a little different,” said Rosenthal. “I think she would be up front and say she struggled a little bit last fall getting comfortable with everything. She was hesitant and second-guessing herself the way she was moving on the court.
“All our players know they are going to get an opportunity. We talk time and time again to make the most of opportunities when they get them. We want them to be able to walk away, whether we win or lose, and say they left it all out there. Elly has done a great job the past three weeks in continuing to push her game to another level. She is not looking around. She is making the plays.”
The Lady Bisons welcomed another transfer in outside hitter Meghan Hinemeyer from Clemson. Hinemeyer, a junior this fall, was able to enroll in school for the spring semester, giving her the opportunity to adjust to a new program before the fall.
Hinemeyer is a former club volleyball teammate of both Lady Bisons setter Jake Pease and middle blocker Alex Kelly, the 2008 Atlantic Sun Player of the Year.
“I think with Meghan we have seen the natural progression of coming to a new team,” said Rosenthal. “She is moving from a defensive player at Clemson to becoming an offensive player here and she hasn’t done that in two years.
“She is very competitive. She is a pretty hard critic of herself and her play. I want her to go about it and realize that I am not asking her to be perfect now. She has really developed into a great teammate for our players. I think Meghan is going to be a very special player.”