What a difference a year truly makes.
Saturday night at the University Center on the campus of Mercer University the Lady Bisons fell 3-0 to arch-rival Belmont in the championship match of the Atlantic Sun Tournament. Last season it was the Lady Bisons who were celebrating their championship on the University Center floor.
In the wake of the loss, Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal chose to look ahead. He has no doubts that his team will return to the tournament for a fifth straight time in 2009.
“I'm proud of my players and I am proud of this season,” said Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal. “After a couple of weeks after this has had time to sink in it will be a good learning experience.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of. We took the program to another level. With the players we have coming back and the players we have coming in the future looks very bright for us.”
The Lady Bisons lost set one 25-22, set two 25-21 and set three 25-19. One thing he is proud of is that the team never quit.
“I really liked what we did,” said Rosenthal. “I thought we played pretty well throughout the match, but around 19-17 in set one we made a couple of bad plays and they really took the momentum and ran with it.
“The scores were fairly competitive. I thought we did a real nice job of coming out and being the aggressor. It was hard to lose that way, but I would rather my players go down fighting. Even in the last couple of points of the match our players really fought hard. That takes a lot of character.”
In each set they jumped out to quick lead, but couldn't sustain the momentum. About midway through the second set Rosenthal saw something from his team he had not seen all season.
“Last year we did a nice job with all 14 of us really working together,” said Rosenthal. “I felt like we started out that way against Belmont, but about midway through the match we struggled a little bit with so many errors. And instead of trusting each other and trusting what we have done all year we kind of broke down.
“That hasn't happened all year. That is something we will address, not now, but in the future. It will be a good learning tool for us.”
Middle blocker Alex Kelly led the Lady Bisons with 11 kills and outside hitter Katie Rose added 10. Setter Stefine “Jake” Pease made 28 assists and added one service ace.
Libero Jessica Turner ended her college career with 16 digs, a match high.
“It's a shame Jessica had to go out on this note,” said Rosenthal. “But she had wonderful career. She is a big reason we have had success over the past four years.”
Belmont's Cat Mundy made a match-high 15 kills.
Pease and Kelly both were named to the All-Tournament Team.
“There were some things I wish we could have done a little differently,” said Rosenthal. “But our hats are off to Belmont and the way they played.”
The Lady Bisons finished the season with a 21-11 record, the highest victory total in the history of the program. Belmont is 25-7 overall.