Junior middle hitter Alex Kelly decided it was time for her to have a talk with her teammates.
Head coach Brandon Rosenthal and assistant coach Samantha Sullivan were talking together so Kelly, one of three captains for the Lady Bisons, pulled her teammates together for a serious period of self-analysis.
“Alex commandeered all the girls and had them step outside the gym and said what she needed to say,” said Rosenthal. “As a coach I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall, but that is where trust comes in. Hearing stuff from their teammates is going to a lot further than hearing stuff from me.”
Rosenthal did not anticipate Kelly making such a move. But he admits he has great trust in not only Kelly but in junior setter Stefine “Jake” Pease and senior opposite Erin Pierce who also serve as captains.
“Jake was up at the official’s stand taking care of the coin toss,” said Rosenthal. “I was filling out the lineup sheet. There is three minutes to get all of that in. There is a lot going on and Alex did that without hesitation. It was a great comfort to see.”
The Lady Bisons (12-3, 9-0), winners of their last 11 matches, have the opportunity Friday night to run the table in the first round of the Atlantic Sun round robin. Standing in their way is USC Upstate, which brings a 5-12, 1-7 record to Allen Arena.
Kelly is the preseason A-Sun Player of the Year selection. Last week she earned her fourth career A-Sun Player of the Week award. She was the 2008 Atlantic Sun Player of the Year as a sophomore.
While her numbers on the court have always been outstanding, Rosenthal told Kelly through the spring, summer and this fall that she was going to be counted on heavily as a leader.
“Because of what she has done she has done she has become this very visible figure that is representative of this team,” said Rosenthal. “She is an intense competitor.
“People notice her. They recognize what she does. She has done a tremendous job of wanting to get better as a leader. She is very conscious about wanting to get better in that area and that leads into her true competitiveness in becoming a better player all together.”
Another example of her leadership ability was in the Evansville match. In the third set Rosenthal saw the opportunity to use some reserves. Kelsey Neumann replaced Kelly at that time.
“Alex was one of the first players to come out of the match and no one hates coming out of a match more than her,” said Rosenthal. “But the first thing I heard from Alex was encouragement for Kelsey.”
Rosenthal stresses there is no doubt that Kelly has matured in many ways since last season. She spent a couple of weeks working camps with Rosenthal. Most of that work was with players who are never going to play at a high level of the sport.
“It is not just her work ethic in practice or in games,” said Rosenthal. ‘She carries that kind of mentality in everything she does. “I was really pleased with how she took it on herself to work with kids who, quite honestly, will never be close to her level as a player. It is great to see that maturity.”