NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Heading into this weekend’s 2011 Atlantic Sun Conference Volleyball Championship hosted at Lipscomb’s Allen Arena, Brandon Rosenthal can add puzzle master to his list of accomplishments.
As the head coach of the Lipscomb Lady Bisons volleyball team he has built the team in the same manner that someone might complete a jigsaw puzzle.
This year the key additions to the puzzle have been freshman outside hitter Lauren Ford, freshman middle blocker Jewell Dobson and senior setter Abby Fay, a transfer from Kansas State. All three will play in their first-ever A-Sun Tournament Friday evening in the semifinals of the tourney.
“I think my job as a coach is to set the situation and put the best team out there,” Rosenthal said. “It is not necessarily going to be where everybody wants to be.
“The idea is that you have to continue to evolve. I think one of the biggest traps we could have fallen into this year would have been to say we have to do the same thing, only with new people.”
Last year’s A-Sun Championship team was built around middle blocker Alex Kelly, setter Stefine “Jake” Pease and outside hitter Meghan Hinemeyer along with defensive specialists Elly Kaiser and Tory Ashcraft.
“That is what made that team,” Rosenthal said. “They are not here as players this season.”
Kelly and Pease were All-Americans last season. Middle blocker Katie Rose was A-Sun Co-Player of the Year this season. This marks the fourth straight time that Lipscomb has produced the conference player of the year. But through the years the Lady Bisons have been a team of role players.
“I have to go back to the quote that says `it is amazing what you can do when nobody cares who gets the credit’. We continue to push that envelope.”
This season Rose, Ford, Dobson and outside hitter Kaycee Green have split the kills stats. Fay and Caitlin Dotson have both split time at setter. In a move reminiscent of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s “Moneyball” approach Rosenthal decided to look to multiple players rather than one to fill Kelly’s shoes.
“We lost five seniors and Kelly was a huge piece of the puzzle,” Rosenthal said. “I don’t think you try to replace those pieces. I think you continue to develop.
“I had an idea that with Ford and Dobson coming in and with Kaycee coming back that we would have a balanced attack. We realized that with the way we run things with a fast-paced offense that teams were going to have to make decisions. We didn’t need one player to get 20 kills. We needed three or four to get 10.”
Rosenthal admits that the overall team approach may have hurt a couple of players in terms of honors this season, but he thinks his players are looking beyond individual awards.
“Our girls are more focused on championships,” Rosenthal said. “I hope our girls would all say they would rather have a championship than individual awards.”
The Lady Bisons take on the winner of Florida Gulf Coast and North Florida at 5 p.m. on Friday evening at Allen Arena. Tickets for the event are $8. The contests will be carried live on ASun.TV free of charge througout the tournament.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.