The Lady Bisons advanced to the title game with a 3-1 win over Belmont in the early match here Friday night. It was the fourth straight time the Lady Bisons have met Belmont in the tournament. In the previous three meetings the winner of the match eventually has won the tournament.
Florida Gulf Coast lost its best player, junior outside hitter Jelena Simic, late in the first set. She is not expected to play against Lipscomb. The Eagles, the No. 3 seed, managed to sweep Jacksonville 3-0 by scores of 29-27, 26-24 and 25-18 despite the loss of Simic. Jacksonville, the No. 2 seed, was the other team that beat the Eagles on their home court.
The loss to the Lady Bisons this season was only the third in 33 matches in three seasons in the A-Sun for Florida Gulf Coast. The last time a host team has won the A-Sun Tournament was in 2006 when Belmont prevailed.
Rosenthal thinks that earlier win could pay dividends.
“Just coming into it you don't have that looming,” said Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal. “The girls know what they can do against them.”
Rosenthal scouted the match and is expecting a huge challenge. He has decided not to practice Saturday morning.
“What a match this was for Florida Gulf Coast,” said Rosenthal. “Their best player, a first team all-conference player, goes down. She had 10 kills in the first set and didn't play again and still tied for the team lead. That's wild because she didn't even play the whole first set.
“They are riding this huge emotion right now. They are going to be dangerous.”
Rosenthal was impressed with the play of senior setter Chandra Lefever and sophomore outside hitter Anna Wagner.
“I thought their coach, Dave Nichols, did a fantastic job in rallying his troops,” said Rosenthal. “To pull out those first two sets was a credit to his team.
“They have a very dynamic setter. She can distribute the ball really well and attack when she needs to. I thought they served the ball really well. They have three or four options and that makes it tough.”
Rosenthal doesn't think that playing the late match is a negative for Florida Gulf Coast.
“You get to this point and none of that stuff matters,” said Rosenthal. “We were in the late match when we won it. And we went five with Belmont to win. We rode that huge emotion into the next day.
“When we serve the ball Saturday it is still going to be a matter of who executes better. And Florida Gulf Coast did a fantastic job of doing that against Jacksonville. I have a long night of looking at tape and trying to come up with some plans.”
Rosenthal's players watched the first set and then returned to their hotel to rest.
“We didn't come here to just win one match,” said Rosenthal. “We match up fairly well against them. It should be a great match. It will be a championship match.
“Our girls didn't necessarily play their best, but they got through the first match and found a way. At the end of the day what is most important is the score. I think they are going to be ready to go Saturday.”
The Lady Bisons are 27-3. Florida Gulf Coast is 18-12.
By Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations