Tuesday night at 6:30 at Allen Arena the Lady Bisons will be out to complete their second consecutive unbeaten Atlantic Sun Conference season when Belmont visits for the final regular season game and the second edition of the “Battle of the Boulevard” this season.
But Rosenthal is going to feel a deep sense of loss before the first ball is served. While the season is not over for the Lady Bisons after the Belmont match, Rosenthal will officially be saying good-bye to five seniors _ setter Stefine “Jake” Pease, middle blocker Alex Kelly, outside hitter Meghan Hinemeyer, defensive specialist Elly Kaiser and defensive specialist/setter Tory Ashcraft.
“It is a night that in all honesty it would be fine if we never had it,” Rosenthal said. “It is going to be hard because I have seen them grow up. If there was some way to keep these five seniors together forever I would be very happy.
“I realize it is their time. They have done so many things for this program. I think it is going to be emotional for me. With these players I am a friend as well as a coach. I would hope that as the years go on I will still be a part of their lives. We are trying to build that type of a family.”
Kelly is the all-time kills leader and should also leave with 1,000-plus career digs. Pease also will have 1,000-plus digs. Former libero Ann Mullins is the only other player who has broken the 1,000-dig barrier for the Lady Bisons.
“Both Kelly and Pease are the best at their positions,” Rosenthal said. “They are the best we have ever seen at their positions in this program.
“Arguably, they quite possibly are two of the best female athletes to play for Lipscomb. I realize that tradition is rich and goes back a long way, but I will firmly stand on that and say that when you look at the individual and team records that they truly have to be considered as two of the best.”
Hinemeyer transferred to Lipscomb from Clemson. She almost gave up the game of volleyball before joining the Lady Bisons.
“What a fun story,” Rosenthal said. “She was almost on the verge of just forgetting about volleyball. She had lost the love. She got a chance to renew that love here.”
Kaiser was a transfer from Illinois State. Her contributions to the team go beyond the stat sheet.
“Elly is the type of player that is always going to do what you need her to do,” Rosenthal said. “She doesn’t get close to enough credit for what she does for this team. She is such a huge part of what we are trying to do.”
Ashcraft was urged to join the program to provide a back-up for Pease.
“We asked her to be part of the team for one year,” Rosenthal said. “But after three weeks we told her it was up to her, but we wanted her to be a part of the team until she graduated.
“She hardly ever gets to play but she is a captain of the team. That should speak volumes that she has had that kind of impact.”
The Lady Bisons beat Belmont 3-1 at the Curb Center Sept. 14 in a match that did not count on the conference record. Belmont has won its last five matches.
The Lady Bisons are second in the nation in consecutive conference regular season wins with 34. They are fourth in home wins in a row with 25.
“When we played over there we were a little bit further ahead,” Rosenthal said. “We had a couple of more pieces in place than they did. They were still trying to figure some things out.
“They have been playing well as of late. With all of our other scouting report we use numbers except with Belmont. We know their players so well that we call them by name.”
Rosenthal thinks both teams have made improvements throughout the season.
“I think they are going to be more of a challenge and I think we are going to be more of a challenge for them,” Rosenthal said. “I think we are a balanced team. We are doing some really nice stuff on the court. I think that causes problems for teams.”
One of the guiding points for the Lady Bisons has been to worry about what they are doing more than what the other team has planned.
“We just have to get into a rhythm,” Rosenthal said. “I think you will see that right away. I think you will see our leaders take over.
“It is going to be a fun match to watch and be a part of. There should be a great atmosphere. I think we will have a good crowd. This team has done so much. They have really caused a lot of awareness of what Lipscomb is all about. They deserve a good crowd.”
The Lady Bisons are 20-6, 9-0 in the A-Sun. Belmont is 13-13, 7-2 in the conference.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.