Coach Brandon Rosenthal thinks his Lady Bisons are getting better each week. That’s a good thing since he rates this weekend’s Billiken Invitational as the toughest tournament of the season for his team.
The tournament is hosted by St. Louis University (3-6), a team the Lady Bisons face Friday night at 7. Saturday the Lady Bisons will play Western Kentucky (8-3) at noon and Marshall (4-5) at 4:30.
“St. Louis is a perennial top 30 team,” Rosenthal said. “Western Kentucky is a team that has made it to the NCAA Tournament by winning the conference tournament and also has gone as an at-large team. Marshall is the same with a strong team every year.
“Top to bottom this is by far our toughest tournament. The other side of it is we are all a little worn out and looking forward to conference play. It should be interesting.”
The Lady Bisons finished 2-1 in the Bluejay Invitational at Creighton to open the season and 2-1 in the Pittsburgh Invitational.
Last weekend they won the Gamecock Invitational sweeping Furman, South Carolina State and host South Carolina. They also have match victories over Tennessee State and Belmont.
They have won seven straight matches, six of the last seven by 3-0 match sweeps. They have beaten the host team in the first three tournaments.
“Our win over Belmont Tuesday night was great,” Rosenthal said. “It wasn’t our prettiest win, but it gave us an opportunity to learn something about ourselves.
“When you look at the scores we did what we were supposed to do. We have built this reputation that we should win every match 3-0. We had one set where we didn’t rise to the occasion. When you play quality teams you are going to have challenges and this weekend the challenge is we are going to play teams that aren’t going to let up.”
Rosenthal sees deep similarities between all four teams.
“Defensively these teams are as tough as we are,” Rosenthal said. “They are a little bit undersized. They are very athletic. They are a little bit faster. All of a sudden we are matched up against three teams that are just like us.”
Rosenthal expects to make some lineup shifts similar to what the team did against Belmont.
“We are going to have to play a couple of more people,” Rosenthal said. “I feel confident that our girls know what to expect and what we are looking for.
“Our team needs to have that experience. Our freshmen have stepped up and played an important part in a couple of our wins. It gives me a lot of confidence in moving forward. We don’t have to guess as much going into the conference season.”
Middle blocker Katie Rose leads the Atlantic Sun Conference with a .349 hitting percentage. Fellow middle blocker Alex Kelly is close behind with a .347 hitting percentage.
Kelly leads the conference in both kills (4.43 per set) and points (5.15) per set.
Setter Stefine “Jake” Pease leads in assists with 11.27 per set.
“We are expecting a lot of our fans to make the trip to St. Louis,” Rosenthal said. “There are two or three players on each team who played on the same teams or played against each other before they went to college.”
All matches will be available on Gametracker at www.slubillikens.com.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.