As he faces his eighth season this fall, he faces his biggest challenge. Bolstered by his team’s 22-0 Atlantic Sun Conference record, the Lady Bisons finished last season with a 28-4 record. They won both the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season and tournament championships and made their second trip to the NCAA Tournament in the past three years.
“Fortunately, we have this problem again of how do we best the year before?,” Rosenthal said. “The past three or four years I’ve wondered how we were going to do it and we have found ways to do it.”
Rosenthal expects his team to return to the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and advance beyond the first round.
“There is not any doubt we have a very talented team coming back,” Rosenthal said. “We continue to defy the odds and I am hard-pressed to think that our seniors and leaders are going to allow anything but that.
“Our seniors have been to the A-Sun Tournament Championship match every season. Their expectations are high because they put us there.”
The team will once again be led by middle hitter Alex Kelly, the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year for the past two seasons, and setter Stefine “Jake” Pease, a two-time Atlantic Sun Tournament MVP.
Never one to shy away from a tough schedule, Rosenthal has put together the toughest non-conference schedule in the history of the program.
They will open the season at Creighton’s tournament in Omaha, Neb., where they will face the host team as well as Kansas and San Francisco Aug. 27 and 28.
Next on the schedule is trip to Pittsburgh, Pa., to face tournament host Pitt and well as Purdue and Tulane Sept. 3-4.
The third tournament on the schedule is hosted by the University of South Carolina. The Lady Bisons will face the host team as well as Furman and South Carolina State Sept. 10 and 11.
The Lady Bisons close out tournament play with a visit to St. Louis Sept. 17 and 18 where they will face Western Kentucky and Marshall along with the host team.
Also on the non-conference schedule for the Lady Bisons is a visit from Tennessee State at Allen Arena Sept. 6 for the first home match and road trips to Austin Peay, Sept. 28, and to Louisville, Oct. 20.
“This is by far the hardest schedule we have ever had just based on the RPIs from last year,” Rosenthal said. “We are facing five matches against teams within the top 50 and 10 different matches within the top 100.”
Pitt, South Carolina, St. Louis, Louisville and Tulane all finished in the top 50 in the final RPI. St. Louis is the highest ranked team at No. 27 in the RPI. Louisville has agreed to play in Allen Arena in 2011.
“The number that stands out to me is that of the 27 matches, 18 are against teams in the top 150,” Rosenthal said. “It is going to be tough. “We have always said we are going to push our teams to the max. I think we are doing that this year. We have to continue to push. To be honest with you, the girls want this.”
The Atlantic Sun Conference will have a single round-robin format this season. The Lady Bisons will play Belmont and Florida Gulf Coast twice, but only one of the games with each of those conference teams will count in the A-Sun standings.
The first A-Sun match of the season will be Oct. 1 when Mercer, one of the Lady Bisons top rivals, makes the trip to Allen Arena. The Lady Bisons will continue in conference play at home Oct. 2 with Kennesaw State.
“Before we get into conference games we play at Belmont (Sept. 14) and Florida Gulf Coast will come here (Sept. 24) for non-conference matches,” Rosenthal said. “We have found way to play Belmont and Gulf Coast twice because I think it is important to play them twice.
“It is our least number of matches we have ever had in the regular season. Because the A-Sun went to a single round robin it is also the least number of home matches with eight.”
Last season A-Sun teams played a double-round robin format. In 2011 the conference will have a round robin-and-a-half with divisional play.
“There will be more pressure with a single round-robin format,” Rosenthal said. “You really can’t have a bad match. It will be interesting to see how it ends.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.