At 6:30 p.m. Friday the top-seeded Lady Bisons will face ETSU, the No. 5 seed, in the semifinals of the tournament. ETSU upset Mercer, the host and No.4-seed Thursday night with a 3-2 quarterfinals win. In the opening semifinal match No. 2-seed Belmont will face No. 3 seeded Jacksonville. Both matches are available on A-Sun TV.
The Lady Bisons, the defending Atlantic Sun Tournament Champions, swept ETSU this season with a pair of 3-0 match wins. On Sept. 12 at Lipscomb the Lady Bisons won by scores of 25-23, 25-22 and 25-18. On Nov. 8 at ETSU the Lady Bisons won by set scores of 25-21, 25-17 and 25-11
. “Once we figured out who we were playing I knew everyone would relax a little bit,” said Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal. “I would have thought they would have been more relaxed not knowing. Our practice here was pretty competitive. Both sides were playing hard in practice. Neither one wanted to lose and that is pretty cool to see.
“We don't want to see one side dominate the other side in practice. We just want spirited competition in practice where everyone can come in and work and get what they need out of it. I think that is what we did with this session.”
This is the fourth appearance in the tournament for the Lady Bisons. This will mark the first time they have not played Mercer in the tournament, having defeated Mercer three straight times in the quarterfinals.
“I thought about that Thursday night especially going into the fifth set,” said Rosenthal. “When Mercer took the lead were were focusing on them. When ETSU took the lead we focused on them.
“We are excited to play ETSU. They have been playing well as of late. We have addressed that. You can tell by the way they played that they want to be here and they want to win this. I can assure you that is the kind of effort they are going to bring against us.”
Despite the Lady Bisons success this season against ETSU, Rosenthal stresses there are concerns.
“In watching their match against Mercer they did a nice of of working their middles,” said Rosenthal. “I think any team that can work their middles, including us, can present the other team challenges.
“They have Whitney Cogburn on the right side. She is left-handed and pretty versatile. They have a great setter in Amanda Youell who really controls the court. But in a lot of ways we have to do what we need to do, and everything else will take care of itself.”
The Lady Bisons are led by middle blocker Alex Kelly, the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, and setter Stefine “Jake” Pease, a member of the All-Atlantic Sun First Team and last year's A-Sun Tournament MVP.
The Lady Bisons are 1-2 in the semifinals round of the tournament. The Lady Bisons enter the match with five straight regular season match wins. They have won seven of their last eight matches.
The Lady Bisons were headed to a local restaurant for a late lunch after practice before taking some time to relax before the match.
“These players have been through this routine,” said Rosenthal. “We haven't changed our routine at all. This is a typical road trip routine for us. We try to get them whatever they need to put them in a good spot.”