After all, senior Alex Kelly, a two-time Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year and an All-American in 2009, was returning. But with the addition of Katie Rose, making the transition from libero to middle blocker, Rosenthal has been forced to change his expectations.
Forget solid. With Rose and Kelly at work outstanding would be a better descriptive choice.
“I’ve found out that the play of our middles is going to be very good,” Rosenthal said. “We knew obviously Alex was going to be able to her hold her on and really excel against whoever we faced.
“But I was really impressed with what Katie Rose did this past weekend. It really gave me a little bit different perspective of how we go to that next level.“
Rose played in the middle for her high school program. She made the A-Sun All-Freshman Team as an outside hitter in 2008 and switched last season to libero. Rosenthal expected more offense from Rose than he got from the position last season, but he was not prepared for the level of play he saw.
“Katie put up 14 kills against Kansas,” Rosenthal said. “She had to work on how hard the middles work. The middle blockers are up on every ball. They are blocking ever ball and they are attacking on every ball.
“They are always transitioning from one thing to the next. The speed of the game is so fast that you don’t have a ton of time to think. You are just reacting.”
The Lady Bisons finished with a 2-1 record in the opening tournament of the season with a 3-1 loss to Kansas and 3-1 wins over host Creighton and San Francisco.
The opening match against Kansas was intense, but the Lady Bisons might have learned more about themselves from the loss.
Rosenthal chose a quote from the movie “Fight Club” to illustrate the situation with his team during Monday’s practice.
“The quote is,`It’s not until you are in a fight that you really find out who you are’,” Rosenthal said. “That is the way it is going to be from here on out. We are going to be playing tough teams.”
Rosenthal also was pleased with the chemistry of the team in every match.
“You never know what is going to happen with chemistry,” Rosenthal said. “We didn’t do a very good job against Kansas but there was good chemistry on the court.
“I was a little worried how we were going bounce back after the Kansas loss. But against Creighton and San Francisco I thought the team did a tremendous job of understanding that the Kansas match was done and that we had to do a little bit job of helping each other and encouraging each other rather than pointing fingers.”
Rosenthal singled out the play of Caitlin Dotson, serving as the second setter, and libero Stephanie Rex.
“Rex played at a very high level as a club player,” Rosenthal said. “I thought her passing was good. But defensively she gets into some positions where the game is too fast. When you are in a bad position you are going to end up making a bad play.
“I thought in the Kansas match she did a good job. In the Creighton match she did a great job. Against San Francisco she again did a good job.”
But Rosenthal also realizes they are just getting their feet wet on the collegiate level.
“They are still freshmen,” Rosenthal said. “There was a little bit of a break down in one of the sets. I told them we weren’t putting them out there just to put them out there. We expect them to do a job and that means they have to stay focused for the entire time of play.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.