FORT MYERS, Fla. _ Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal predicted at the start of the season that his Lady Bisons would have to face the rival Belmont Bruins at some point in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.
After all, he had history on his side. And Thursday evening at Alico Arena on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast Rosenthal saw his prediction fulfilled as the Bruins, the No. 4 seed, beat the No. 5-seeded Mercer Bears 3-1 in the quarterfinals of the A-Sun Tournament.
The No. 1-seeded Lady Bisons will meet Belmont at 4 p.m. Friday in the third edition of the “Battle of the Boulevard this season. The Bruins won 25-21 in set one and 25-15 in both sets two and four. Mercer won set three 25-23.
The Lady Bisons and Belmont met twice during the regular season with the Lady Bisons winning 3-1 at the Curb Center Sept. 14 and 3-1 at Allen Arena on Nov. 9. The Lady Bisons are 22-5 overall. Belmont is 14-14.
“We go out to win every match,” Rosenthal said. “We had a good feeling at the beginning of the year that we would play Belmont at some point in this tournament. Whether we had lost to them 50 times in a row or beaten them 50 times in a row is something for everyone else to talk about.
“Belmont is just another team that wants to take us down. We try to boil it down to the simplest point and that is us versus them.”
This will mark the fifth straight season that the Lady Bisons have faced Belmont in the tournament. In the previous four years the winner of the match has gone on to win the A-Sun Tournament title and the automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s one of those things where I continue to think in my head about how they can change things,” Rosenthal said. “There are going to be some minor tweaks and adaptations to what they have been doing, but ultimately we have a good idea.”
One thing that Rosenthal noticed during the quarterfinal match was the increased number of attacks from the back row by outside hitters Kayla Albritton and Maggie Johnson.
“That is something we have seen more and more from Belmont, but even since our match with them last week it was a higher number,” Rosenthal said. “That is something we will address.”
Belmont is using freshman Jamie Lundstrom at the libero position. The Lady Bisons also start a freshman libero, Stephanie Rex.
“We saw Lundstrom a little bit last week when we played them and I thought she did an excellent job,” Rosenthal said. “I was interested to see how she would react to the pressure of the Mercer match and she handled the pressure really well.”
Rosenthal was also impressed with the serving of the Bruins, especially Jen Meyer, one of two left-handed servers on the Belmont team along with Channing Salava.
“If you don’t side out her serve and continue to give her confidence she just gets better and better,” Rosenthal said. “We saw that against Mercer. We have to take care of her serve early.
“That is going to be one of our keys. If we can do that we can put a lot of pressure on the other team because of the quality of our attacks with Jake Pease distributing the ball.”
Rosenthal always stresses defense and it is definitely another key in this semifinal match.
“Our defensive effort, whether we get every ball or not, has to be there,” Rosenthal said. “Our defense dictates a lot of what we do.
“Our serving game is also going to be big. We have to keep the pressure on them.”
Rosenthal doesn’t expect that his Lady Bisons will make many adjustments.
“We actually went back and watched some of our last match with Belmont,” Rosenthal said. “We rarely do that.
“I think we are in a good place. The girls are very relaxed. We had a great practice Thursday. I know they are tired of waiting.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.