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Thursday, August 20, 2009The Lady Bisons volleyball team has reached a new plateau, earning top honors in the Atlantic Sun Preseason Poll.
Conference coaches gave the Lady Bisons five of 11 first place votes. Belmont was picked second with three first place votes and Florida Gulf Coast was tabbed for third, also with three first place votes.
“I expected us to be somewhere near the top,” said Brandon Rosenthal, who is entering his seventh season as the Lady Bisons head coach. “It is a great feeling that your peers recognize you.
“It is something you acknowledge and smile about and then get back to work. Our players still have a lot to prove and a lot to accomplish.” This is the first time a Lipscomb athletic team has been a preseason No. 1 selection in the Atlantic Sun.
“It’s a good thing for the program,” said Rosenthal. “Someone has to be No. 1 and we have worked hard to get to that point.
“I’m proud of our players. They have earned it. John Wooden said you have to earn the right to be proud and confident. In this case I am proud. I think we have earned that right. ”
Last season the Lady Bisons won a program record 21 matches, finishing with a 21-11 record, 17-3 in the A-Sun. They advanced to the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Championship game for the second year in a row, but fell to Belmont. In 2007 the Lady Bisons won the tournament and the program’s first ever berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Each season under Rosenthal the Lady Bisons have increased their victories total. Rosenthal doesn’t expect this team to rest on any preseason laurels.
“We have a long season ahead of us,” said Rosenthal. “It is a nice gesture, but by no means is the preseason going to determine who is first at the end of the season. We have to keep this in perspective.
“I think we surprised some people that we did as well as we did last season. We came up a match short, but I was pleased with the way we played last season. The coaches know what we did this past spring. They know the caliber of the players we have brought in.”
Rosenthal doesn’t worry that his team might get some extra attention from opponents because of the preseason ranking.
“Every year, whether we are one, two or three in the preseason rankings, we are going to be one of those perennial top teams,” said Rosenthal. “How you handle it is the big thing.
“It is a standard for our program. We have talked a lot about it. It is a standard our players have embraced. They came here to be part of a program that is going to be a target. We are not afraid to work hard. That is going to show this year.”
Junior middle blocker Alex Kelly, the 2008 Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, was selected as the 2009 Preseason Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, also a first for the Lady Bisons program.
“Alex understands it is about the team and not about her,” said Rosenthal. “It is a great honor for her and a well-deserved honor.
“If anyone thinks that Alex is going to fall off the radar after having a great sophomore year then they are really under-rating her. But I don’t think that is the case. Everyone in the conference thinks that she is the real deal.”
Joining Kelly on the Preseason All-Conference team is junior setter Stefine “Jake” Pease.
“Alex and Jake are definitely, by far, the players to watch on our team,” said Rosenthal. “The best part about that is that day-in and day-out they are two of our hardest workers.
“The connection they have on the court has created problems for other teams. I am expecting they will continue to create some problems.”
Pease was a First Team All-Conference selection last season. She was the 2007 Freshman Player of the Year in the A-Sun.
“No matter what the situation Jake is going to give it her best,” said Rosenthal. “A lot of people overlook Jake because of her height. She is always set on proving herself to people.”
The Lady Bisons will play a "Purple and White" intrasquad game Friday night at 5 at Allen Arena.