This weekend they face Florida Gulf Coast at 6:30 p.m. Friday night at Allen Arena. Saturday afternoon at 2 they will play Stetson. The Lady Bisons, 18-3, 13-0, have won their last 15 matches and are 13-0 in Atlantic Sun Conference matches. They have only lost four sets in A-Sun matches this season.
“We are going to get a pretty big effort from Florida Gulf Coast,” said Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal. “They are coming off a tough loss to Jacksonville at home. Florida Gulf Coast is a good team and that loss makes them a little more dangerous.”
The Lady Bisons beat Florida Gulf Coast 3-0 on their home court in Fort Myers, Fla., Sept. 19.
“It was a great feeling to go down there and get a win,” said Rosenthal. “Now we have to protect our home floor.
“We have talked to our players a lot about taking care of our side of the court. If we do that we don’t have to worry about what other teams are doing. Our players, a lot of ways, know what is at stake.”
The Lady Bisons swept Stetson 3-0 Sept. 18.
“Stetson poses some different challenges for us,” said Rosenthal. “They haven’t won a conference match and that makes them a dangerous team.
“For our sake we have to take of Friday before we address Saturday. But anytime you get into a match-up where someone doesn’t have anything to lose it can be a challenge. We have been that team before.”
Rosenthal finds comfort in the fact that his players have not taken a step back in terms of their work ethic in both practices and games.
“A calming factor is how hard the players work in practice,” said Rosenthal. “If we were still doing what we are doing now and not working as hard then I would be really worried.
“Every day those apprehensions go away because of what I see in practice. I wouldn’t say that every practice is fantastic, but the vast majority of them are all about hard work.”
On Wednesday Rosenthal put his Lady Bisons through one of the longest practices of the season.
“We probably went longer than we have in two-and-a-half or three weeks,” said Rosenthal. “There was no complaining. “They wanted to get better. They wanted to continue practicing. That is great from my standpoint.”
The Lady Bisons are in a position to clinch a spot in the A-Sun Tournament this weekend.
“We have talked a lot about control and having control,” said Rosenthal. “A lot of times teams and players have control but they don’t know what to do with it. If we take care of Friday night that just moves us closer to our goal.”
The Lady Bisons are also having an impact on the national level with the team climbing to 57th place in the RPI standings.
Junior middle hitter Alex Kelly and junior setter Stefine “Jake” Pease are also near the top nationally in several categories.
The Lady Bisons are ranked fourth in NCAA Division I in both assists per set (13.78) and kills per set (14.9). Texas A & M is first in both categories with 14.28 assists per set and 15.09 kills per set.
The Lady Bisons are 13th with a .857 match won-lost percentage. They are 22nd with a .264 hitting percentage and 28th with a 16.71 digs per set.
Pease is seventh in the nation in assists per set with 11.87. Kaylee Manns of Iowa State is first with 12.28 assists per set.
Kelly is 12th in points per set with 5.16. Burgandy McCurty of Siena is first with 5.96. Kelly is ranked 17th in kills per set with 4.43. McCurty is also first in that category with 5.34.
“It has been fun to be able to look at us on the national scale,” said Rosenthal. “I am somewhat cautious though. The statistics are great, but if we don’t win those stats don’t mean nearly as much.
“We don’t talk about stats very much. They are concerned about one thing and one thing only and that is going out there and playing hard.”
With eight games left in the regular season the Lady Bisons have stayed on course as they attempt to win both the A-Sun regular season title and the tournament.
Coaches can scout and game plan every day, but it all boils down to how much players want to win.
“I know that my players want to win as badly as I do,” said Rosenthal. “I can’t really complain. This far into the season they either get it or they don’t.
“They are smart. They know what they have to do.”