Last week the Lady Bisons were 44th. The previous week they were 41st.
“It’s get down to some pretty important times,” said Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal. “It is a great accomplishment for the program to be ranked this high. Hopefully, it will help us in some way, shape or form whether it is seeding or in getting an at-large bid.”
The message that Rosenthal sends to recruits is to come to Lipscomb and be part of something special. The Lady Bisons, 26-3 overall, 20-0 in the A-Sun, are in the Atlantic Sun Tournament for the fifth straight year. They are the No. 1 seed for the second year in a row. Last season Florida Gulf Coast, the host of the 2009 tournament, won the regular season title but was not yet eligible for postseason play. The Lady Bisons had finished second.
“During a four-year period every one of our recruits has been able to have the experience of playing in the conference tournament,” said Rosenthal. “It’s special.
“Just this past weekend we had some alumni back, including Emily Smith who was here on the team for my first win. It was neat to reminisce with the players and get their take on things. They were proud. And that is an awesome and powerful feeling to know that your alumni are proud of what is going on.”
The Lady Bisons also remained in first place in the NCAA rankings in kills per set with 14.96. They fell from first to third in assists per set with 13.99.
“Some of that is based on how things play out in sets and matches,” said Rosenthal. “We don’t ever go into it thinking we need three more kills or assists to keep our average up. We just go out and play and let those things take care of themselves.”
The Lady Bisons program has improved in the number of overall wins every season under Rosenthal, who is in his seventh season as head coach. He thinks that NCAA rankings in areas like kills or assists are important in trying to sell the program.
“Penn State doesn’t have to talk about that,” said Rosenthal. “But it is important to a smaller program that is on the rise. One day, hopefully, we want have to talk about it. But the novelty is still there and it warrants some recognition.
“It definitely legitimizes what we are trying to do. We have been moving up the RPI and people are starting to take notice. We are statistically at the top. I think people are saying, `my goodness, what is going on there?’.”
They are eighth in the nation with a .897 won-lost percentage 13th with a .271 hitting percentage.
Individually, junior setter Stefine “Jake” Pease is ranked seventh in assists with 11.98 per set. Kendall Bateman from Southern Cal is first with 12.23 per set.
Junior middle hitter Alex Kelly is ninth in the nation in points per set with 5.22. She is 15th in kills per set with 4.46. Kelly is ranked 35th in Division I with a .365 hitting percentage.
The Lady Bisons plan to travel to Fort Myers Wednesday for the tournament. They will practice Thursday and make their first appearance in the semifinals Friday afternoon at 4 CST. They will play the winner of the first round match between No. 4 Belmont and No. 5 Kennesaw State.
“Going into this tournament everyone is 0-0,” said Rosenthal. “It’s great, but the reality of it is that in college athletics you are only as good as your last match.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/ Director of Media Relations