NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It may be the offseason for volleyball, but there is a lot going on.
In January Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal was featured in Volleyball Magazine. Juniors Jewell Dobson and Lauren Ford were named All-American honorable mentions by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). Ford and Dobson, along with assistant coach Billy Ebel, just returned from two-days at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where they were part of open tryouts for the U.S. National Team.
The Lady Bisons finished 69th in the 2013 RPI. In 2010 they were ranked 65th. Their highest finish was 36th in 2009.
“When you start piecing all of those things together you can see what Lipscomb volleyball is and what we are known for,” Rosenthal said. “It is the premier magazine in volleyball. It was definitely a huge honor.”
Rosenthal was both surprised and flattered by the article “Be a Part of Something Special” which was written by Lisa Wade McCormick.
“It’s a magazine I have been reading for a long time,” Rosenthal said. “For them to call me out of the blue, in the sense that I had no idea it was coming, and want to do a feature article was awesome.
“It is special in that sense that every month I get it and I read it. I thought the writer did a fantastic job of capturing the vision of our program. It was neat to hear the responses from around the country, some people I knew and some from people I didn’t.”
Rosenthal thought the article did an excellent job of capturing what the program is about on all levels.
“That article really highlighted what we are all about…this idea that we have something pretty special here,” Rosenthal said. “The thing that really stood out for me was how many girls were talked to and featured in it. That is fun to go back as a coach and remember all of those times.
“It was rewarding to be able to see that the program had that big of an impact on them. That is special to me. When you hear some of the girls talk, especially the ones that are coaching now, you hear the same language, phrasing and emphasis they use now is a direct reflection on what we tried to do when they were in our program.”
Spring is the time for players to work on individual development. Will Osburn, assistant director of strength and conditioning, works closely with the Lady Bisons volleyball team.
“We have to increase our strength,” Rosenthal said. “Will has done, and is doing, a great job of that.
“As we go from the weights to the court we have to carry that confidence over.”
Last season’s memory
The Lady Bisons lost in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship 3-2 to Jacksonville. Despite failing to make it to the NCAA Tournament Rosenthal stresses he has no regrets.
“I thought we did a fantastic job last season,” Rosenthal said. “I have no what ifs from last season. As a coach you can easily go `what if this’ or `what if that’, but I don’t do that. I never have. I was sad for the girls. They were a special group that I really enjoyed being around. I will miss that group.
“They laid it on the line. Unfortunately, we came up short. The harsh reality is that we did all of that and we came up short so where do we go from here. We have really tried to instill this maximum effort type of mentality. “
Last season’s finish is driving the Lady Bisons through the long gap between the end of the season in late November and the start of preparations for a new one in August.
“At the end of the day our girls are very dedicated, probably more so than ever right now,” Rosenthal said. “These girls know what they want. We are not searching for that.”
Rosenthal and his Lady Bisons discovered that they were facing more challenges this past season in the conference.
“It was a more competitive conference this past year especially up at the top and through the middle.” Rosenthal said. “We have to continue to push forward. I don’t think we have ever expected just to dominate the conference.
“Teams did a nice job game planning against us. They game planned for us better than they ever had. The information they were using was very good. Now it is our job at the point that we have to show them something different.”
Rosenthal was most proud of the fact that his players never backed down and never stopped attacking the season.
“I give our girls a lot of credit for just getting after it and never stopping,” Rosenthal said. “Nine times out of 10 when I have asked the girls to give everything they have, and they did, we came up on the plus side. This (loss) was just one of those examples of what sports is all about.
“It is like having kids. I have the hopes and dreams that if they give everything they have then they are going to get everything they ever wanted. I feel bad that we came up short.”
The Lady Bisons lose one starter from the 2013 team – setter Caitlin “Dot” Dotson. She was a leader both on and off of the court.
“We are only missing one starter, but that one was a pretty big piece,” Rosenthal said.
Either Kayla Ostrom or Jordan Huston is expected to replace Dotson. Rosenthal is expecting the returning starters to provide confidence to whoever feels that role.
“Now you have to count on everyone around that one to give her confidence, whether it is Kayla or Jordan, so they don’t feel that pressure,” Rosenthal said. “Whether it is Lauren Ford, Sophie Kellerman or Jewell Dobson they have to take the pressure off of whoever is setting.”
Rosenthal likes the way the freshmen class progressed during the season despite injuries and limited playing time. He is seeing steady progress in offseason workouts.
“I think the freshmen progressed really nicely through the fall,” Rosenthal said. “There weren’t a ton of opportunities for the freshmen last fall.
“We were excited to see the progress, not only at the end of the season, but the progress they are making now. They are making huge gains. Our competition is going to be huge this fall.”
Estes shining bright
Sophomore Brittnay Estes steadily improved as the season progressed and finished strong playing the right side position.
“I wanted to see another day, another match out of her,” Rosenthal said. “If you look at her numbers in those last five matches it was really starting to click. Britt wants it bad.”
In those last five matches Estes was credited with 48 kills and three matches with hitting percentages of .462 or higher.
“All of a sudden our offense was saying, `what if we give her more attempts?’,” Rosenthal said. “And all of a sudden we did. We saw some tremendous output.”