The Lady Bisons, 11-5 overall, begin the defense of the Atlantic Sun Championship Friday when Mercer, 6-12, visits Allen Arena for a 6:30 p.m. match. Saturday afternoon they face Kennesaw State at 2 p.m.
“We have had a good week of practice,” Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “The girls are really focused and understand what is at hand. Now is the time when we have to get down to business.
“Even more so than in years past every match is going to be valuable. Everybody, for obvious reasons, has Lipscomb circled on their calendar.”
The Lady Bisons were 22-0 in conference play last season, including the conference tournament. They have won 25 straight A-Sun Conference regular season matches dating back to 2008. Only North Dakota State with a 42-match win streak in the Summit League has a longer conference win string. Rosenthal stresses the main key is how they play as a team, not what the opponent does.
“We have to focus on our own end of the court,” Rosenthal said.
Mercer and Lipscomb have one of the more intense rivalries in the conference in volleyball. The Lady Bisons have beaten Mercer three times in the conference tournament, including the opening round match on the Bears home court in Macon, Ga., in 2007.
Lipscomb leads the series 10-6. The last loss for the Lady Bisons in the series was Sept. 22, 2007, a 3-2 decision in Macon.
“It dates back to at least 2003-2004 when Lindsey Rutherford was playing here and her sister was playing for Mercer,” Rosenthal said. “The rivalry is still there no matter who is on the court for both teams. It’s a little bit of fun to have a rivalry like that no matter what the sport.”
Timing is everything and middle blocker Katie Rose appears to be healthy again based on her play in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Florida Gulf Coast.
“There is a comfort factor with Katie back,” Rosenthal said. “There will be a little bit less of a need to move pieces around. I’ve always thought volleyball is about the flow of the game with players knowing where their teammates are at all times.
“Having her passing back is beneficial to us. She also benefits us offensively.”
Senior setter Stefine “Jake” Pease has been honored throughout her career at Lipscomb, but she may be putting together her best season ever in terms of distributing the ball.
“I think the numbers we have started to put up indicate that,” Rosenthal said. “Last year we got into such a rhythm. Jake did a very nice job across the board.
“This year we have so many more options that it has been a little tougher getting people into a rhythm. The schedule we have played has been tougher and the match-ups have been tougher.”
With Pease, the preseason A-Sun Player of the Year, in the setter role Rosenthal and the rest of the team don’t worry about how the ball is going to be distributed.
“There is a reason why our hitters are successful and a lot of that has to do with the position Jake puts them in,” Rosenthal said. “And even when are not passing well we have the ability to make plays because of Jake’s speed and ability.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.