|October 11, 2013||1st||2nd||3rd||Final|
CARLTON - 7
ROCHEFORT - 1
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Molly Spitznagle is back.
She didn’t start. She only played in the first two sets. But she played, something she had not done since injuring her ankle during warm-ups before the Kentucky match Sept. 21.
She had one full practice session this week to prepare for her return against Atlantic Sun Conference foe Mercer. She had been sidelined for six matches. In her limited amount of play she made three kills along with one dig, one blocked shot and one block assist.
The Lady Bisons swept the match at Allen Arena Friday night with set scores of 25-13, 25-17 and 25-19. The Purple and Gold are 11-6 overall, 5-2 in the A-Sun. Mercer slipped to 1-15, 0-6 in the conference.
“That was kind of our hope to be able to work her in,” Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “I thought she did a great job.
“We had a great practice with her Thursday. After I saw her in practice I realized she was ready to go. I give her credit, but I also give the girls credit. It was fun to see them as excited as they were to get her back.”
Spitznagle had 94 kills and a .356 hitting percentage before she was injured. Spitznagle, along with middle blocker Jewell Dobson and outside hitter Lauren Ford, gives the Lady Bisons three formidable offensive weapons.
“It really puts a lot of pressure on the middle,” Rosenthal said. “They know they can kind of slow Jewell down by putting a lot of focus on her. But now when you add Molly to the mix there is one more player they have to circle.”
Rosenthal wants to proceed with caution in terms of bringing Spitznagle completely back into the mix.
“The first set she was still warm from warm-ups,” Rosenthal said. “The second set was good. But we didn’t want to push it after the break between sets two and three.”
In the third set several reserve plays saw extensive playing time. Freshman middle blocker Katie Bradley played two sets, finishing with three kills.
“Katie Bradley has worked hard to get playing time,” Rosenthal said. “She is going to be forced to be reckoned with for quite some time.
“Game experience is huge. She was able to play a whole set and really get into a rhythm.”
Claire Peterson, who has spent time at middle blocker in Spitznagle’s absence, will be able to move back to the right side.
“Claire has been doing some fantastic stuff on the right side,” Rosenthal said.
Brittney Estes has also been playing the right side and posted two kills, four assists and one dig against Mercer.
“Brittany has done a fantastic job over the past three weeks,” Rosenthal said. “I am really proud of her.”
Ford posted her sixth match high of the season with 15 kills. Dobson added 11 kills. Dobson posted a .381 hitting percentage. Ford hit .324.
“Lauren really found her rhythm early and felt real comfortable,” Rosenthal said. “We have been working on her challenging the block. Over the past two weeks she has really done a nice job of that.
“It is no surprise. She was picked preseason first team in the conference. I think this is where she and Jewell together really benefit as both of them are having successful seasons. Bringing Molly back into the mix is only going to help Jewell and Lauren even more.”
Libero Bri McCombs was credited with a match-high 16 digs.
No Mercer player was in double figures in kills. Emily Rochefort led the team in digs with 14.
The Lady Bisons return to action Saturday at 2 at Allen Arena when Kennesaw State visits. Kennesaw State is 7-10, 2-5 in the conference after a 3-2 loss at Northern Kentucky Friday night.
“Kennesaw State has been playing consistently well,” Rosenthal said. “We have done our research. The tough part about them is that they can set a lot of people. We have to go out and execute our game plan.”
Rosenthal isn’t certain how much playing time Spitznagle will get against Kennesaw State.
“We will see how she feels,” Rosenthal said. “If we are able to play her a little bit more it would be a lot of fun.”