Friday night in the semifinals at Alico Arena here on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast the Lady Bisons swept the Belmont Bruins 3-0 in the tournament version of the "Battle of the Boulevard" with set wins of 25-14, 25-23 and 25-11. The Bruins were the No.4 seed.
The Lady Bisons will face ETSU, the No. 3 seed. The Lady Bucs upset Kennesaw State, the No. 2 seed, 3-1. The championship game begins at 2 p.m. It is available on A-Sun TV with live stats at atlanticsun.org.
“I’m really pleased with how we came out and dictated the match early,” Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “We put a lot of pressure on them even going into set two.
“In set two we had a four or five point lead and Belmont fought back hard. In the middle range we had as a big of a lead as three and as small a lead as one. But Belmont never tied us.”
Rosenthal admits that if the Lady Bisons had lost the second set he might not be preparing for the championship match.
“The rallies were long in set two,” Rosenthal said. “Both teams were winded. Neither team was calling time outs. Mentally it is hard because we are feeling pressure on every play.
“Belmont did some nice things in set two and we didn’t pick up on them. It wasn’t one thing or another.”
In set three Belmont had a roster issue that caused a delay after the first point of the match. Rosenthal was concerned how that wait might affect his team, but the Lady Bisons jumped out to an 8-1 lead and never looked back.
“It was a tough situation,” Rosenthal said. “Our girls don’t like waiting. When a big wait like that is going on they get frustrated. “Teams that are frustrated tend to try to overplay things. I thought we did a real nice job of settling down and taking care of the job.”
This was the fifth time in the last five seasons that the two teams have met in the A-Sun Tournament. The winner of the match has gone on to win the tournament each of the last four years with the Lady Bisons winning in 2007 and 2009 and Belmont winning in 2008.
It was the third win this season for the Lady Bisons against the Bruins.
Senior middle blocker Alex Kelly made 15 kills and was credited with 15 digs, both match highs.
“That’s just Alex Kelly,” Rosenthal said. “To say I would expect anything less would be a lie.
“All of these girls want this championship, but we all know what a competitor Alex is. She got hot early and I thought we went away from her a little bit. But we found a rhythm going back to her.”
Three other Lady Bisons finished in double figures in digs with senior setter Jake Pease, junior middle blocker Katie Rose and freshman libero Stephanie Rex each making 10.
“We have been stressing defense since our last match with Belmont last week,” Rosenthal said. “We looked at what we could do differently than we have done all season in the tournament match.
“We have played solid defense this season, but I thought we took it up a notch. We were very prepared. Our girls were really disciplined on defense and executed our game plan. When we are scoring out of our defense that puts a lot of pressure on the other team.”
Rose barely missed a double-double with nine kills. She posted a .750 hitting percentage, tying with Pease for the match high.
“Katie Rose played a tremendous match,” Rosenthal said. “She is like Erin Pierce was for us last season. Katie is the X-factor.
“It is the little plays time and time again. Defensively, she was solid. Offensively, when we can get our middles hitting like Katie and Alex did it’s tough on the other team.”
Senior outside hitter Meghan Hinemeyer added 10 kills. Pease made 38 assists.
The Lady Bisons are 23-5. Belmont finished the season 14-15.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.