The Lipscomb Lady Bisons used every weapon in their arsenal in a 3-0 sweep of Belmont.
“When you play tough competition it gives you an opportunity to use everything,” said Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal. “You can’t just focus on one player.
“We came into the Belmont match confident. We understood our ability. We understood what we are capable of doing. I thought we had a good game plan and the players did a tremendous job of executing our plan.”
The Lady Bisons were the preseason No. 2 pick in the Atlantic Sun Conference and the coaches tabbed Belmont as the No. 3 team. The last time the two rivals faced each other was in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Tournament in Macon, Ga., a 5-3 Lady Bisons win.
This time around it wasn’t that close. Tuesday night at Allen Arena the Lady Bisons got the first point in the first set and never looked back. They won set one 25-23, set two 25-21 and set three 25-18.
“Ultimately, what it was all about was going out and executing plays,” Rosenthal said. “When we have played tough competition we have struggled a little bit finishing plays."
In set one the Lady Bisons trailed only once
In set two the Lady Bisons fell behind at 4-3 and did not retake the lead until a kill by outside hitter Katie Bradley put them ahead 15-14. They lost that lead as well, but a kill by freshman outside hitter Katie Rose put the Lady Bisons ahead 21-20, an advantage they did not give away down the stretch.
“We know Belmont is a talented team,” Rosenthal said. “Every time we play them we know it is going to be tooth-and-nail.
“For us we had to relax ad understand they were going to get their points. We just had to chip away. We talk all the time as a team that there are no two-point, three-point or four-point plays. It is one point at a time.”
Set three opened with Belmont taking the early advantage, but the Lady Bisons prevailed, taking the lead at 11-10 on a kill by opposite Erin Pierce, and never looking back.
Rosenthal was most pleased that the Lady Bisons reduced their errors in the third set with only two service errors and two hitting errors.
“It was awesome in the third set to see us get a lead and keep a lead the rest of the way through,” Rosenthal said. “We went into the third set with seven service errors and 12 hitting errors.
“We talked between sets two and three. We stressed Belmont is a good team and we didn’t need to give them any more points. We wanted to control what we could control. We did a great job transitioning from defense to offense and keeping them off guard.”
It was the first home match and first Atlantic Sun match of the season for the Lady Bisons. A record crowd of 723 watched.
“The crowd was tremendous,’ Rosenthal said. “What a boost to us being on the road the past seven matches to come home to that.
“We did a great job of not only rising to the occasion, but keeping our composure in check. Belmont had 30 or 40 students come over and chant. That’s what this atmosphere is all about. Hats off to the crowd.”
Sophomore middle blocker Alex Kelly kept her streak alive, leading the Lady Bisons for the eighth straight match with a match-high 18 kills. She also posted a .556 hitting percentage.
“Alex wants to win so badly,” Rosenthal said. “When things get tough she wants it more than someone else. It is an awesome feeling to look out there and see her on the court and know she is going to do everything possible to win.”
On the outside freshman Katie Rose and sophomore Katie Bradley each made eight kills.
“Katie Rose is playing out of position on the outside,” Rosenthal said. “She works extremely hard and gives it her all. The intensity and nuances of the game catch up to her at times, but there is no doubt she is working hard. We have been pleasantly surprised with her production.
“I thought our outsides did a much better job. We knew we were going to get some pressure on the outside. Both Katies are able to go out there and give us solid games.”
Senior Jessica Turner, making her first ever appearance in the libero position, made a career high and a match high 22 digs.
“Jessica had 22 digs in a three-set match to 25 points each set,” Rosenthal said. “I was real excited about what she was able to do.”
Cat Mundy led Belmont with 10 kills. Megan Clements added 10 digs.
Pierce finished with nine kills and eight digs and a .match-high 615 hitting percentage.
The Lady Bisons are 2-6 overall, 1-0 in the Atlantic Sun. Belmont is 4-4, 0-1 in the conference.
The two teams will meet at Belmont Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m.
The next games for the Lady Bisons are at Allen Arena this weekend with ETSU visiting Friday at 7 and USC Upstate on campus Saturday at 3. Rosenthal is hopeful that the fans will be in the stands for the crucial A-Sun matches.
“This is an exciting game,’ Rosenthal said. “Now that our talent level is where it needs to be this is something you want to watch. This is something I hope more and more people want to be part of.
“These players continue to work so hard. They go out there and ultimately put on a great product.”