Or you can save your team from experiencing a crushing end to the season.
That’s what coach Brandon Rosenthal and his players did Saturday on the way to a repeat win as the Atlantic Sun Tournament Champion. After dropping the first two sets in the finals to ETSU at Alico Arena in Fort Myers, Fla., the Lady Bisons used the 10-minute break to drastically change the direction of the match.
Surprisingly, there was no panic by either the Lady Bisons or Rosenthal. And that might have been the key to the Lady Bisons bouncing back and winning three straight sets to take the conference title.
“The girls probably had two-and-a-half or three minutes to themselves in the locker room,” Rosenthal said. “Usually I have a pretty good idea once I open the door about what went on before I got there.
“I really didn’t get an indication this time. There was some talking, but it wasn’t heated. It was very calm in there. Everything was in control. No one was freaking out.”
Rosenthal and his assistant coach Samantha Sullivan usually give the players a few minutes to talk on their own during the 10-minute break between the second and third sets.
“I told our girls that we were getting outplayed in almost every aspect of the game,’ Rosenthal said. “We weren’t doing that bad. ETSU was just doing better.
“I had no preconceived plans to talk about how often we had won matches in three sets. We had to forget we were down 2-0. We literally had to look at it as a brand new match.”
Rosenthal wanted his team to be calm, but he also wanted them to go into set three with a sense of urgency.
“My tone got a little bit louder and my message was a little more urgent,” Rosenthal said. “I never yelled, but I wanted them to be confident and I wanted them to know that from the first whistle of the third set they had to dictate the rest of the match.”
Rosenthal and Sullivan left the players in the locker room for the final two-and-half minutes before the third set began.
“Starting out quickly in the third set was vital,” Rosenthal said. “ETSU had punched us in the mouth from the very first play. I think if they had done that again to start the third set it would have been a different situation.”
When he left the locker room Rosenthal was confident his Lady Bisons were going to win. Senior captains Stefine “Jake” Pease and Alex Kelly had different views of the crucial match.
Pease didn’t need the 10 minutes between sets to reevaluate the situation. She never doubted the Lady Bisons would prevail.
“All Saturday morning I hung out by myself because that is what I like to do,” Pease said. “I was thinking. I was praying. I was asking God to please give us confidence in everything that we do. That has been a big thing I have been asking for a lot.
“The whole time I was never nervous. Normally my mouth gets dry. I don’t know what it was. From the bench to the starters to someone who played only one point it was amazing what we did.”
Kelly, who was named the tournament MVP, struggled along with her teammates in the first two sets.
“Things weren’t going well personally or for our team,” Kelly said. “Before the third set I told the girls this is not how we are going out.
“The first two games I don’t know what I was doing. I told myself I had practiced and I had trained and that I was better than what I was showing. We came out and played with a lot of fire. It was a great ending.”
Kelly admits that no matter what she was saying during the intermission she didn’t think the Lady Bisons were going to come back and win the match. But she changed her mind as the third set progressed.
“Being down 0-2 is not good,” Kelly said. “The way ETSU had been playing I didn’t think we were going to come back. I know Jake said she was never worried.
“But we came out in set three and started playing like ETSU had been playing. Things started going in the opposite direction for both teams. About point 15 of set three I knew we were going to take it all. It was definitely a good test of character.”
The Lady Bisons have one more game left before the NCAA Tournament. Saturday afternoon Xavier will visit Allen Arena for a 2 p.m. match Saturday. Sunday at 1:30 Lady Bisons fans are invited to Shamblin Theater to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.