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Friday, November 16, 2007
Nov. 16, 2007
Lipscomb's Lady Bisons chose the right time to get their first victory ever on court against the Belmont Bruins in volleyball.
The record books show that Belmont held a 23-1 advantage in match wins with the Lady Bisons. But that lone win in 1994 was actually the result of a forfeit by Belmont.
"I didn't know until this year that the only win we had against them was by a forfeit," said Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal. "I told our players I felt this was our day. We walked out of the locker room as one."
Friday night at the University Center no one was going to forfeit. The Lady Bisons and Belmont battled toe-to-toe for five games in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. The tournament is hosted by Mercer University in Macon, Ga.
This is the third time the Lady Bisons have competed in the A-Sun Tournament, but the first time they have reached the finals.
When it was all over the Lady Bisons, the No.4 seed, beat Belmont, the No. 1 seed, 3-2. The Lady Bisons had lost 3-1 at Belmont during the regular season.
"We knew it was going to be a battle," said Rosenthal. "We talked to our players before we came out on the court. We told them it was to take all 14 of them to win. What an absolutely wonderful team Belmont has."
The Lady Bisons meet No. 3-seed Jacksonville Saturday at noon for the A-Sun Championship. The winner receives the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
This is the first time since 1992 that neither one of the top two seeds advanced to the championship game. Ironically, the last time a No. 4 seed won the championship was in 2004 when Jacksonville won.
The Lady Bisons lost game one 30-28, won game two 30-24 and then lost game three 30-28. In game four the Lady Bisons dominated finishing with a 30-19 win. The Lady Bisons won game five 15-13.
"We felt like getting out to an early lead was important," Rosenthal said. "I was a little surprised we were able to do that in almost every game.
"Belmont usually doesn't have to play from behind a whole lot. If they did we knew it would be one of those things that would throw them off of their game."
Serving was a key for the Lady Bisons who had 15 service aces. Senior middle blocker Alex Scruggs and sophomore opposite Kaley Mohr each had five service aces. Mohr's performance was a career-high. Scruggs tied her career-high, previously set Oct. 24 in 2006 against Tennessee-Martin.
"I can't say enough about Kaley," Rosenthal said. "In the toughest of situations she came in and served bullets time in and time out.
"She's a player who didn't have a whole lot of playing time throughout the year. She could have easily given up. But this team has so much heart."
Rosenthal stressed improved serving because he felt that was one of the weak points for the Lady Bisons in the regular season loss to Belmont.
"We didn't serve tough enough against them in the previous match," Rosenthal said. "Kaley has a different serve than Alex. They both served well, but wanted to mix it up."
Junior outside hitter Sarah Snider led the Lady Bisons with 22 kills. Middle blocker Alex Kelly made 15 and senior outside hitter Jessica Enderle finished with 13 and a .500 hitting percentage. Snider finished with a double-double with 15 digs.
"Jessica didn't play against Mercer," Rosenthal said. "We needed a little bit of passing against Belmont and Jessica brought that to the table. She just did an unbelievable job. She was another senior who stepped up at a moment when we needed it."
Snider made five kills in game four. She made a match-high 64 total attacks. She played in more control than she did in the regular season loss at Belmont.
"We had a long talk about what she had to do in big games," Rosenthal said. "The game at Belmont kind of got away from her and she will admit that.
"She is a very experienced player, and a great player, but at the same time she is human. She has to learn from her mistakes as well."
Libero Ann Mullins was credited with 22 digs, tying Belmont's Megan Clements for the match-high.
Setter Stefine Pease made 55 assists and posted a .389 hitting percentage.
Belmont's Cat Mundy made a match-high 31 kills, tying a conference tournament record.
Jacksonville, 19-12, advanced to the title game earlier in the evening with a 3-1 win against ETSU. This is the third time in the last four years that Jacksonville has advanced to the tournament championship game.
"Jacksonville is very tall and very talented," Rosenthal said. "It will another hard-fought match.
"A lot of it has to do with us controlling our emotions and really stepping up to the plate. This match is over. Saturday is another day."
The Lady Bisons, 4-2 on neutral courts this season, won 3-1 at Jacksonville during the regular season.
"Whatever happens we have to lay it all on the line," Rosenthal said. "Win or lose, if we can say we left it all out there, then that's it."
Despite playing the late game, Rosenthal does not expect fatigue to be a factor for his team. This is their third match in as many days. They swept host Mercer, the No.5 seed, 3-0 Thursday night.
"Our players are well-conditioned," Rosenthal said. "We have been in training all season for this. This is what it's all about. Our players are ready to go.
The Lady Bisons are 19-11. Belmont fell to 20-8.