There is always an element of uncertainty whenever a team opens its regular season, but the Lady Bisons volleyball team heads into this weekend’s Comfort Inn and Suites Invitational with limited knowledge of their opponents.
The tournament, hosted by Morehead State University in Morehead, Ky., also features Western Illinois and Indiana State. The Lady Bisons play Western Illinois at 1 p.m. Friday at the Weatherby Gym. They play Indiana State later in the day at 4:30.
“There is the excitement of going from seeing things just on paper to the preseason where we see it out on the court, but against each other,” said Lipscomb volleyball coach Brandon Rosenthal. “Opening weekend, no matter how many years you do it, it is always going to be busy.”
Rosenthal, entering his sixth season with the Lady Bisons as head coach, will be out to repeat as Atlantic Sun Conference champion and return to the NCAA Tournament.
This will be the first time the Lady Bisons have ever faced Western Illinois, a member of the Summit League.
“Western Illinois is a good, solid team,” Rosenthal said. “They play some real tough teams. I expect them to give us a great match.
“I don’t know too much about how they play. It will be a good match. I expect it will be tightly played with maybe one team grabbing some momentum early and the other team fighting back.”
Indiana State has a new coach, Traci Dahl. .Rosenthal knows the coach, but he doesn’t know what to expect. However, Indiana State was picked to finish last in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll.
“Tracy will do a fantastic job there,” Rosenthal said. “But there are a lot of question marks there with Indiana State.”
The Lady Bisons close out the tournament Saturday at 2 when they face Morehead State.
“This should be a great match,” Rosenthal said. “They finished the regular season tied for first in the Ohio Valley Conference. Their team is always at the top or near the top of the OVC.
“We feel fairly comfortable playing OVC opponents. It is nice to go up against the best. We will see them play twice Friday so we will have more of an idea what Morehead State is about.”
Sophomore setter Stefine “Jake” Pease, the most honored player in the history of the program as a freshman, has set the pace in preseason drills. Last season she was the only setter on the team. This year she is competing with freshman Jenny Brekke.
“One of the things we were interested to see was how Jake would deal with competition,” Rosenthal said. “She has done a fantastic job. We had an idea she would raise her game and she has.
“She has so much success last season. So where does that go to next?”
One of the biggest unknowns is how volleyball teams will respond to games ending at 25 points instead of 30. The Lady Bisons have worked on different scenarios in practice.
‘I don’t think it has affected our strategy in the sense that we are changing things,” Rosenthal said. “We have to realize that giving away four-or-five-point runs hurt even more now. Our key is to get back on track sooner rather than later.
“It is going to take a whole year for our players to get used to it. It doesn’t matter how many time you work on it in practice games are going to be different.”