And while it is nice for the Lady Bisons, the defending A-Sun Champions, to not have to play a quarterfinal game, the No. 1 seed has seldom been a guarantee for success in the tournament.
“It is kind of new thing for us to go in as the No. 1 seed and have the bye,” said Lady Bisons’ coach Brandon Rosenthal. “It’s exciting, but one thing we will share with our players is that the seeds pretty much go out the window right now.
“It has been that way for the last couple of years that being the No.1 seed does not mean you are going to win the tournament. It is important that we stay hungry. I’ve seen it in the eyes of our players that they are hungry.”
Last year the Lady Bisons won the tournament as the No. 4 seed. They beat Mercer in the quarterfinals, Belmont in the semifinals and Jacksonville in the championship game. Setter Stefine “Jake” Pease, then a freshman, was named the A-Sun Tournament Most Valuable Player. The Lady Bisons earned the A-Sun’s NCAA Tournament berth and played Dayton in the first round in Dayton, Ohio.
The tournament begins tonight at the University Center on the Mercer campus in Macon, Ga. The Lady Bisons will play the winner of the match between No. 4-ranked Mercer and No.5-seeded ETSU in the semifinals at 6:30 CST.
Belmont, the No. 2-seed, will face the winner of the match between No. 3 Jacksonville and No. 6-seeded Campbell.
“In some ways this is a like a regular weekend for us with Friday and Saturday matches,” said Rosenthal. “That is how we are going to address it with the team.
“We aren’t going to get too far away from our normal routine. We have some things they are going to do as a team while I do some scouting. When it comes down to tournament time it is about management, not coaching.”
The only team in the tournament that the Lady Bisons did not sweep during the regular was Belmont. They split with each team winning on its home court.
“The thought of trying to beat a team for the third time in a season is a challenge,” said Rosenthal. “I think our players are ready for it.”
The Lady Bisons practiced at Allen Arena Wednesday morning before driving to Kennesaw Ga., where they planned to practice Thursday.
“I’m excited to see the attitude that they are going to bring to the court. In talking with the players individually there is a sense of relief that the regular season is done. Now they can get down to business.
“What we accomplished in the regular season was great, but the main goal is still out there. Whether it is Mercer or ETSU it is going to be tough.”
The Lady Bisons last faced ETSU Nov. 8 and they closed out the regular season against Mercer at Allen Arena Nov. 15.
“It is really a matter of just going out and playing,” said Rosenthal. “You don’t really have a whole lot of time to change things. We would like to fine-tune some things and that is what we are going to get down to doing.
“We have talked about the grit and attitude of this team and the gutsiness they have. I think you are going to see those same things during the tournament. Ultimately, we have had our eyes on this all year long. Now it is just a matter of getting it going.”