Nov. 17, 2007
It started slowly, sort of like the 2007 season.
There were awards to be given and handshakes to be made.
Then, with the arena cleared of everyone except Lipscomb fans and family members it was time for unrestrained jubilation and celebration as the Lady Bisons reacted to their first ever Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship and their first trip to volleyball's "Big Dance".
The Lady Bisons swept Jacksonville 3-0 by scores of 30-20, 31-29 and 30-15 Saturday afternoon at the University Center on the campus of Mercer University in Macon, Ga. Earlier this season the Lady Bisons had beaten Jacksonville 3-1 on the road.
"This is a team that has so much talent," Rosenthal said. "It was a matter of them coming together and playing within the system. They have done an unbelievable job of that lately. Our team has worked so hard. This is an awesome sight."
The Lady Bisons truly peaked at the right time. Rosenthal points to the 3-0 loss at Gardner-Webb in the final A-Sun regular season game of the season as a key motivator for his team.
"It would be nice if I could say it was planned," Rosenthal said. "Obviously, we wanted to be going better heading toward the tournament. I was concerned about the setback at Gardner-Webb, but we came back and beat Austin Peay 3-0 in our last home match. I knew then we were ready to go."
The Lady Bisons won their 20th match, an all-time high for the program. This is their first trip to the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Selection Show will be held Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. CT on ESPNU. The sites of the regionals have not yet been determined.
Ironically, the last time a No. 4 seed won the tournament was in 2004 when Jacksonville took the title. Jacksonville was the No. 3 seed this time around. This was the third trip to the finals for Jacksonville in the last four years and the second year in a row they had lost in the title game.
Freshman setter Stefine Pease was named MVP of the tournament. Also joining Pease on the All-Tournament Team were freshman middle blocker Alex Kelly, junior outside hitter Sarah Snider and senior middle blocker Alex Scruggs.
Snider made a match-high 17 kills. Senior libero Ann Mullins was credited with a match-high 13 digs.
"Sarah really showed what she could do in this tournament," Rosenthal said. "But you also have to give a lot of credit to Ann Mullins who is our anchor for our defense."
Scruggs added 11 kills and a .333 hitting percentage.
"We knew Jacksonville was very tall, but they weren't as quick as we are," Rosenthal said. "That didn't play to the advantage of Sarah because they put up such a big block. But hats off to Sarah. She made some absolutely amazing plays.
"But this team is 14 players strong. On nay given day someone can be called upon. I can't say enough about Kaley Mohr who had an unbelievable tournament. "
Rosenthal and his Lady Bisons had lost the previous two seasons in the semifinals of the tournament. He stated from the preseason that he felt like this was a team that could earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
His players also believed as well.
"We believed in Brandon and he believed in us," said Mullins who serves as a team captain with Scruggs. "I feel so close to these girls. They are all like my sisters. It took all of us to do what we did."
Scruggs, Rosenthal's first recruit, ranks this year's Lady Bisons as the best team she has ever played on at any level.
"We have played as a team from the beginning of the season," Scruggs said. "We have had some rough spots, but we knew to get to the NCAA Tournament we had to play together. This week we played as a team better than we ever have.
"We were confident in every game. We just knew we were going to win even when we were down against Belmont and Mercer. Ann and I couldn't sleep Friday night because we knew this was going to be our day."
The Lady Bisons are 20-11 overall. Jacksonville ended the season with a 19-13 record.