NASHVILLE, Tenn.-The Lipscomb volleyball clinched a spot in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament defeating USC Upstate 3-0 in Allen Arena on Saturday.
The Lady Bisons have made the conference tournament each of the last seven seasons. LU has won the last three tournaments and four of the last five.
“As the season goes along, you are always looking for that asterisk,” Lipscomb head coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “We’ve always had a feeling that we would be in the tournament. It’s exciting. That’s what we are here to do. We’re here to get into the tournament and beyond that.
“What’s neat about our program is that our girls expect that. It doesn’t seem that long ago that all we were focusing on was making the tournament. We didn’t even know what was beyond that.”
The A-Sun Tournament will be held in Allen Arena November 15-17. Florida Gulf Coast is the only other A-Sun team to punch its ticket to the conference tournament.
In the first set of the USC Upstate match, the Lady Bisons were down 19-17, but scored the next seven points. Outside hitter Kaycee Green had four kills during that stretch. LU went on to win the set 25-20.
“We started off a little slow, but I was really pleased with the composure we kept in the first set,” Rosenthal said. “I think it could have gone the other way. I’m excited how they kept it (composure) and really kept chipping away.
“At this point of the season, you hope to see some of that, some resolve and understanding of when we’ve got to turn it up, not just from me, but within. I’m excited about that.”
In the second set, the Lady Bisons were up by one point, 11-10, and outscored the Spartans 10-4 to take control. LU eventually won the set 25-18.
With the Lady Bisons up a single point, 5-4, in the third set, LU scored the next eight points. LU won the set 25-14 and the match.
Green led the Lady Bisons with 15 kills and had nine of those kills in the first set. Middle blocker Jewell Dobson added 10 kills and middle blocker Molly Spitznagle had nine kills, one shy of her career-high.
“Molly played a good match as the match went on,” Rosenthal said. “We’ve got to get her to the point where she can loosen up a little bit, but play with a little more intensity in the beginning of the matches. Molly can be a huge threat and as the match went on, her confidence grew as well.”
Libero Stephanie Rex led the team with 15 digs, giving her a total of 986 career digs, 14 shy of the 1,000th career dig milestone.
Setter Caitlin Dotson had 12 digs and added 40 assists for her ninth double-double on the season and the 22nd of her career.
“I thought defensively, especially as the match went on, we got better and better,” Rosenthal said. “We put a lot of pressure on a team when we come up with the digs and not only that, but we hold them to a pretty good hitting percentage.”
USC Upstate had a .173 hitting percentage, but the Lady Bisons had an impressive .356 hitting percentage.
Emily Bingham led USC Upstate with seven kills, while Emily Sanders led the team with 15 digs. Lexi Gober added 26 assists for the Spartans.
The Lady Bisons face Northern Kentucky in a mid-week match on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 6:30 p.m. in Allen Arena.
LU defeated NKU 3-2 (16-25, 25-15, 23-25, 26-24, 15-13) to begin the Atlantic Sun Conference schedule in Highland Heights, Ky.
“We will be ready,” Rosenthal said of the quick turnaround. “We’ve got to be smart about our reps this next week and more importantly what’s at stake. Northern Kentucky is ineligible to go the tournament. They will come in here with a little more passion because this is their championship part of their season. It should be a great match.”