Aug. 15, 2006
Having been selected as the No. 3 team in the Atlantic Sun Conference in a preseason pill of the volleyball coaches is both a challenge and a reward for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons.
"Third place is what we have been fighting for a couple of years," said Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal. "This is a sign of recognition by the coaches who I think are very knowledgeable about our conference.
"Being picked higher means we are not going to sneak up on anybody, which is fine. I think we snuck up on some teams last year, but we did it in a fashion where it was not a fluke. It is tremendous to have a third place ranking going into the season, but we also know we still have plenty of work to do."
Rosenthal is not shy about saying that the goal for the 2006 team is to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. A third place finish would earn the Lady Bisons their second straight berth in the A-Sun Tournament, but the Lady Bisons would have to be named tournament champions to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
"If there is a team to do it, it is this year's team," said Rosenthal of the NCAA quest. "I think they are poised for this and will be ready.
"This team has great chemistry. We have a team with a full year under their belts. This year we only lost one and we are adding two. The players are very familiar and very comfortable with each other. This team is a tremendous team to be around off and on the court. We always talk about being a family, and this is a really tight-knit group."
There are three seniors on the team. Samantha Sullivan, a transfer, is set for her second season. But seniors Lindsey Rutherford and Catherine Johnson are playing their fourth seasons. They have seen the program improve each year. Rosenthal thinks an NCAA berth would be a great going away present for the senior class.
"Lindsey and Catherine are the first players who bought into the system," said Rosenthal. "They have put in tremendous time. They are really the cornerstone of what we are doing here.
"I am truly excited. It has been three years of hard work and three years of a group of players believing in what we are telling them."
Belmont has been picked as the No. 1 team during the regular season. The coaches also tabbed Belmont as the projected tournament champion. North Florida was picked to finish second during the regular season. The school is ineligible for the conference tournament.
"I think it is going to be a dogfight," said Rosenthal. "Belmont is going to be Belmont. The rivalry is going to be heightened, and we look forward to it."
Kennesaw State will be playing volleyball for the first time on the NCAA Division I level this fall. Like North Florida, Kennesaw State is not eligible for the A-Sun Tournament.
"Kennesaw State is the wild card right now," said Rosenthal. "No one knows what they are going to be like. I think they are going be better than what is expected.
"Jacksonville has a relatively new team with a new coach. Campbell has a lot of height and has brought in some great players. Mercer is an interesting team for us. Lindsey Rutherford's little sister is playing there this season. We beat them twice last season, and that rivalry is growing.
"ETSU will be strong again. Gardner-Webb and Stetson are going through some rebuilding. It will be interesting to see what they do."
Teams in the conference only play each other one match during the regular season, making each match crucial for postseason hopes.
"Losing a conference match could be very detrimental," said Rosenthal.