NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lipscomb Lady Bisons volleyball coach Brandon Rosenthal has added three new players for the 2014 season - outside hitter Chloe Rogers and defensive specialists-liberos Brittany Thomas and Jennifer Phelan.
“We are excited about the class,” Rosenthal said. “The class has been here. They have communicated with each other. They are a very fun group. They have a lot of passion for life.
“When they were all here for their official visits our girls went on and on about how funny all three of them were and how easy it was to integrate them into conversations.”
Rosenthal likes the depth he will have next season on the back row with Megan Stout, Bri McCombs, the Atlantic Sun Libero of the Year, teaming with Thomas and Phelan.
McCombs and defensive specialist Stephanie Rex were a formidable duo on the back row. Rex has completed her eligibility leaving a spot open. McCombs will be a junior.
“It is real easy to see our back row is going to be solidified for a long time,” Rosenthal said. “All three have their strengths. I think they will complement each other very well.
“In the conference tournament I was really impressed with how Bri and Rex controlled the back along with Sophie Kellerman. When you start talking about having two or three players who can play within that and really own it then it is going to be tougher for other teams. When you have defensive players who want to make it theirs good things are going to happen.”
Rogers will help strengthen the front line joining Lauren Ford, Kellerman, Brittnay Estes and Kaitlyn Teeter.
“From a playing standpoint it is going to be able to bring someone off the bench who can add some pop,” Rosenthal said. “I am excited about that.”
Rogers, 5-foot-11, played on the same club team, KC Power, as Ford. That is fitting since, like Ford, she is known for her ability to strike a volleyball with authority. She and Thomas are club teammates.
She plays for Blue Valley High School in Overland Park, Kan., where she has lettered four years in both volleyball and softball.
“Chloe is a tremendous and powerful outside attacker,” Rosenthal said. “She will bring a lot of initial power to our team.
“We are excited about what she brings to the table. She is very athletic. She has played both volleyball and softball pretty much all of her career.”
As a club player she has competed for national championships. As a high school player she has a wall full of awards.
In 2013 she was a Kansas 6A All-State First Team pick, an AVCA Under Armour Watch List member, All-Eastern Kansas League (EKL) First Team, “Top 150” Senior Aces for the 2014 Class, and a 2013 Evelyn Gates Award nominee. In 2012 she was named to the All-EKL First Team, All-Metro Second Team, All-6A State First Team, Arkansas Invitational All-Tournament Team and the Kansas All-6A All-State Tournament Team.
During the 2011 season she was a member of the All-EKL First Team, a Prep Volleyball Sophomore 79 Highest Honorable Mention and Arkansas Invitational All-Tournament Team. In 2010 she was an EKL Honorable Mention and a Frosh 59 honorable mention Prep Volleyball selection.
“She plays the game hard,” Rosenthal said. “There is a lot of upside to Chloe.
“She has such sheer power. Hitting a ball hard is not something everybody can do.”
In softball Rogers is a two-time First Team All-EKL Pitcher. Academically, she is a member of the National Honor Society, National Honors Art Society and is a Gold Key winner in ceramics.
Her parents are Jennifer and Rick Rogers. She has not decided on a major.
Thomas, a former gymnast, is only 5-2, but she makes a big impact on the court. She is from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kan., the alma mater of Ford.
“Brittany has great natural instincts on the back row,” Rosenthal said. “We ask each player do you hate losing or love winning. She is a hate losing type of player.”
In both 2013 and 2012 she was the AVCA Phenom Player to Watch. In 2013 she earned First Team All-State honors and in 2012 and 2011 she was Honorable Mention All-State. Also in 2013 she was All-Metro First Team and in 2012 was named All-Metro Honorable Mention.
For 2013 and 2012 she was a member of the Eastern Kansas League First Team All-District and Defensive Player of the Year.
In her school she holds a number of career records. She is first in digs (1,394), second in digs per set (4.81) and fourth in service aces (112).
In 2013 Thomas posted the second highest digs total for a season for her high school with 568 and the third highest digs per set with 5.46.
“The hard part about back row players, especially when they start moving up in levels, is at some point they have to trust their instincts,” Rosenthal said. “It is not about being wrong. It is about trusting your instincts and making adjustments.
“That is where a good defensive player comes in. And I think Brittany definitely has that. Her strength is her defensive game. The instinctive work she does defensively is one of those things that is very mature. We are going to be able to build on that from the first day.”
Thomas is a Senior Ambassador and a member of the National Honor Society. She has been a Student Council representative as a junior and senior. She is also a member of the Spirit Club and the Key Club.
“Brittany is a tremendous student and a tremendous ambassador for her high school,” Rosenthal said. “She is going to be very involved in the community. She is a natural born leader.”
Her parents are Peggy and Mike Thomas. She is undecided on a major.
A leader on deck
Phelan, 5-6, is from Mother McAuley High School in Chicago, Ill.
“When we were looking for a defensive player we wanted somebody who first and foremost passed the ball well,” Rosenthal said. “We were really impressed with how she carried herself on the court in tough situations.
“Obviously, her passing ability is really strong. But, more than that, we like the mental makeup that she has. She is the type of kid that is going to run through a wall for you. I am really impressed with her drive and for lack of a better term, that X factor, the part about her that keeps her going.”
Phelan has served as team captain for her club and high school teams from 2010-2014. She was the MVP of her high school team in 2011. She is also a member of the National Honor Society.
“When you talk about court movement she is what I would call a minimalist,” Rosenthal said. “She is not going to move just to move.
“A lot of times you watch players and they are always moving and at some point that causes problems. She moves and waits and then moves again. You have to be patient and allow the game to come to you.”
Rosenthal predicts that Phelan will emerge as a leader of the team.
“Somewhere down the road I can see her really taking a leadership role,” Rosenthal said. “She is a pretty vocal leader on the court.
“She plays with passion. She is very humble. But she knows she is going to outwork people. She has great ability.”
Her parents are Judith and Mark Phelan. She plans to major in business.