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Saturday, November 22, 2008MACON, Ga. _ Their two schools couldn't be closer in location to each other.
The two coaches couldn't know more about each other's styles.
And the players on both teams know all the pros and cons of each other on the court.
In the middle of all of this familiarity the Lipscomb Lady Bisons and the Belmont Lady Bruins will battle it out for the Atlantic Sun Championship Saturday at 5 at the University Center on the campus of Mercer University.
The Lady Bisons advanced to the championship game with a 3-0 sweep of ETSU, making its first ever appearance in the A-Sun Tournament. Belmont held off Jacksonville for a 3-2 victory.
“We will watch a little bit of film, but we know them and they know us,” said Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal. “I don't think we have to over-hype it or over-analyze it.
“They did some different things against Jacksonville that we will address. But they pretty much have the same personnel. We will be up all night looking at things and breaking it down. But it is all about allowing the team to play.”
The Lady Bisons, the No. 1 tournament seed, beat the odds to advance to the title game. Only one top seed has reached the tournament finals in the past five seasons. Florida Atlantic, no longer a member of the conference, beat Belmont in 2005. The No. 1 seed has reached the tournament finals three times since 2001 and has won every time. Belmont is seeded No. 2.
“It is going to be a great match between two great teams,” said Rosenthal. “I think it is going to come down to the team that keeps everything under control and makes the fewest errors.”
The Lady Bisons have beaten Belmont two of the last three meetings, including the semifinals of last year's Atlantic Sun Tournament.
The odds are still in the way for the Lady Bisons. No A-Sun Tournament Champion has successfully defended its title since UCF, another former conference member, did it three times from 2001 through 2003.
“Our match with ETSU wasn't the prettiest, but a win is a win,” said setter Stefine “Jake” Pease, last year's tournament MVP. “Seeds are out in the tournament. At end of the day each team has to be ready to face anybody.
“I know I can do better and I think the team can do better. It is fun for us to play Belmont again. Mentally, being in the championship game last season helps us, but this is a new team and a new ball game.”
The two teams split their matches this season with each one winning on their respective home courts. The Lady Bisons won 3-0 Sept. 9 in the Atlantic Sun season opener for both teams at Allen Arena. Belmont fought off a rally by the Lady Bisons to win 3-2 at the Curb Center Oct. 28.
“By splitting with them we had the opportunity in our locker room to say we will hopefully get another chance to play them,” said Rosenthal. “And here we are.”