Familiarity often breeds contempt, but when it comes to the rivalry between Lipscomb and Belmont in volleyball, familiarity breeds respect.
The Lady Bisons welcome the Bruins to Allen Arena Tuesday night at 6:30 as both teams start the second half of the Atlantic Sun round robin with the volleyball version of the "Battle of the Boulevard". The Lady Bisons, 15-3, 10-0, were unbeaten in the first round, posting a 10-0 record, and have won their last 12 matches. The Bruins are 11-9 overall, 7-3 in the conference.
“I think there is a mutual respect for each other,” said Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal. “In a rivalry like this there is obviously no hatred for each other.
“There is a mutual respect for each other. And I think that mutual respect is kind of a unique thing. Anytime we play I expect the best from their team because his leadership. I would hope they would feel the same way about us.”
Rosenthal and Belmont coach Brandon Webb have both guided their programs through the struggles that are typical of newer programs and have each become successful. Rosenthal earned his 100th match win Friday night against USC Upstate.
“Dean and I over the years have gotten to know each other quite a bit out on the road,” said Rosenthal. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dean. His teams have won two titles in three years which is a hard thing to do in any sport. It wasn’t long ago that we were the bottom two teams in the conference.”
Both coaches are known for their abilities to quickly make adjustments. Rosenthal stresses that the familiarity between the two programs drives many of the changes that are made in matches between the two teams.
“There is a familiarity with each of us as coaches and a familiarity with the players,” said Rosenthal. “We talk quite often. Both of us want to do the best job we can. We get pumped up for this match just like our players.”
The Lady Bisons opened the A-Sun portion of the season with a 3-0 win over Belmont at the Curb Event Center Sept. 8. It marked the first time the Lady Bisons have won at Belmont.
“First of all, we played extremely well in that match,” said Rosenthal. “We had more experience than they did. We knew it would help us.
“All the kinks have been worked out on both sides as we head into this match. We understand a little bit better that we are going to get everybody’s best efforts.”
There are both familiarities and differences in the playing styles of both teams.
“In some ways we are the same because we both have faster-tempo offenses,” said Rosenthal. “We both have dynamic setters. On offense they are going to do a little bit more on the outside. We are going to do a little bit more in the middle. They take a different approach in serving than we do. They go for a lot of aces. Defensively, every time we play both teams want to be the defensive leader.
“We play a relaxed type of game. Not every point is relaxed, but I think, overall, our team is very much in control on the court.”
Rosenthal credits captains Stefine “Jake” Pease, middle hitter Alex Kelly and opposite Erin Pierce for improving their leadership skills in order to keep the team under control.
“The leadership has grown tremendously in the past six weeks, and to me that is great,” said Rosenthal. “From that standpoint there is a difference from the first match with them.
“The only thing we can do as coaches is prepare them. Then at some point we have to let them go out and play.”
NCAA rankings : The Lady Bisons enter the week rated 71st in NCAA Division I RPI rankings.
The Lady Bisons are third in the nation in kills per set with 14.93. Penn State is first with 15.07.
The Lady Bisons are fifth nationally in assists per set with 13.83. Texas A & M is first with 14.25.
They are also in the top 20 in two more categories. They rank 16th in winning percentage (.833). Penn State and Texas remain unbeaten.
The Lady Bisons are 19th in hitting percentage (.269).
Individually, Pease is fifth in the nation in assists per set with 11.95. Alisha Glass of Penn State is first with 12.2.
Kelly is ninth in points per set with 5.27.
Kelly is 12th in kills per set with 4.54.