Both teams had outstanding seasons in 2009. The Lady Bisons, 28-4, won the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament and the regular season championship with a perfect 22-0 conference record. Furman also was unbeaten in regular season play in the Southern Conference with a 16-0 record, 26-4 overall, but did not win the conference tournament.
Lipscomb and Furman will meet at noon Friday in the first day of the Gamecock Classic.
“For me this is a much anticipated match-up,” Lady Bisons’ coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “I couldn’t really tell if we were ahead of the game or behind in the game as to where we were with them. It will be interesting to see where we stand with them.
“They have a young team with some really explosive players. They have outside hitter Katherine Hall who I coached in club volleyball. She played on the same club team with Tory Ashcraft. That is kind of a neat twist.”
The Lady Bisons are 5-2, winning each of their last three matches by 3-0 scores. Furman is 2-4.
The Lady Bisons will play South Carolina State, 1-7, Friday at 5. They close out the tournament Saturday at 11 a.m. in Columbia, S.C., against host South Carolina, 0-6, from the Southeastern Conference.
“In a lot of ways we are similar programs,” Rosenthal said. “We are smaller schools in smaller conferences trying to make names for ourselves.
“It will be one of those matches that will tell people about both of us. We are both trying to move to the big kids table. We have both made huge strides, but we are not there yet.”
The Lady Bisons will play South Carolina State, 1-7, Friday at 4.
“We really don’t know too much about South Carolina State,” Rosenthal said. “We have a feeling they will be an athletic team. We have to really take care of our side of the court and not worry about the other side.”
The Lady Bisons close out the tournament Saturday at 10 a.m. in Columbia, S.C., against host South Carolina, 0-6, from the Southeastern Conference.
“The big thing for us is to dictate what we want to do throughout each set and the match,” Rosenthal said. “Against Tennessee State Tuesday we came out and did a phenomenal job of doing that in the first set, but then we kind of let our foot off the gas a little bit.”
Teams have been concentrating heavily on senior middle blocker Alex Kelly this season. She still leads the A-Sun in kills with 4.25 per set. Rosenthal isn’t worried about special defensive plans to stop Kelly.
“I have the utmost respect for Alex’s game,” Rosenthal said. “I know she can overcome it.
“We have seen it before. It might take her a couple of points to get into the rhythm of it because the other team is trying something different.”
The biggest problem for the opposition is the Lady Bisons offense does not revolve around one player.
“We have five legitimate offensive threats,” Rosenthal said. “Meghan Hinemeyer and Kaycee Green at any point of time can get 15 kills. Katie Rose and Kelly can get that many kills each in the middle. Katie has already shown that if leave her alone she is going to get her points. And then you have Jake Pease in the picture.”
Pease leads the conference in assists with 11.25 per set. Rose’s .355 hitting percentage is the second highest in the conference.
“That is a lot for other teams to wrap their heads around,” Rosenthal said. “The tough part about our team is that if you concentrate on Alex you are leaving our outside hitters working one-on-one and the best setter in the conference is going to have her pick with where she is going to go.”
Live video will be available for free when the Lady Bisons face South Carolina Saturday. Gametracker live stats will be available for every match of the tournament by going to Gamecocksonline.com.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.