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November 22, 20131st2nd3rd4th5thFinal
East Tennessee State25211325142
.252Hitting Pct..276
151Total Attacks127
KillsDEVINE - 15
AssistsRUTLEDGE - 47
AcesRICE - 2
McCOMBS - 18
DigsMUEY - 17
BlocksHARDY - 6
Five-set thriller sees volleyball advance to A-Sun championship
Friday, November 22, 2013
By Mark McGee
Five-set thriller sees volleyball advance to A-Sun championship

KENNESAW, Ga. - Remember when your mother told you as a child that it was the little things that count.

The odds are overwhelming that your mother wasn't talking about a volleyball match when she made that statement.

But in the case of the Lipscomb Lady Bisons 3-2 semifinal victory over No. 2 seed ETSU Friday night in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship the little things made the difference.

That was the main piece of advice that Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal gave his players as they faced a crucial fifth set that would either extend their season or send them home.

"The idea was to not lose sight of all of the little things that got us here and what made us great," Rosenthal said. "You have to trust that.

"When I say trust that I mean if you miss a play, or miss a ball, you have to go right back to it. You have to have a pretty short memory in this game."

Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. the Lady Bisons, 23-7, will be seeking the fifth A-Sun Championship when taking on top seeded Jacksonville at the KSU Convocation Center.  The contest is set to air on ESPN3 as well as the WatchESPN app.

Jacksonville, 28-3, advanced to the championship game with a 3-1 match win over Florida Gulf Coast Friday. The Lady Bisons split with the Dolphins this season, losing 3-1 at Jacksonville Sept. 27 and rallying from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 at Allen Arena Oct. 26.

"What we did in that match showed us a lot," Rosenthal said. "It definitely pushed us.

"That win over Jacksonville added fuel to the fire of what we are capable of doing. I would imagine the win over ETSU adds a little more fuel to the fire. Hopefully, as we go into this deciding match, we will have a big old fire."

Rosenthal is going to be counting on those little things again.

"Jacksonville is a formidable opponent," Rosenthal said. "We have to throw it all on the table.

"We have to find the right matchups and the little things. But at the end of the day the players have to play."

Another old saying, "the third time's the charm" also played into the match with ETSU. It was the third time this season the two teams had needed five sets to decide a match. This time the Lady Bisons came out on the winning side.

"I'm excited for our girls to battle through two tough losses to ETSU and come back and have this opportunity," Rosenthal said. "There was never a point where they gave up as players. There was never a point where we gave up as a staff.

"You have to keep pushing through. It is a great message to our girls that we preach all of the time."

After losing set one 25-17, the Lady Bisons came back to win set two 25-21 and set three 25-13. ETSU won set four 25-23 setting up set five and a 16-14 Lady Bisons win.

"I thought the adjustments by our girls after set one were awesome," Rosenthal said. "Obviously, set two was tough and we pulled it off and that aggression carried into set three when we got the lead. We had our opportunities in set four."

Middle blocker Jewell Dobson made a match-high 18 kills. Outside hitter Lauren Ford was close behind with 11. Middle blocker Molly Spitznagle also was in double figures with 12 kills.

Setter Caitlin "Dot" Dotson made 61 of the Purple and Gold's 63 assists.

"We have two fantastic middles in Jewell and Molly," Rosenthal said. "During one time out I said this is a math problem. It is important to understand the hitting percentages of players and let Dot trust them and go with it.

"It is also about trust. It is trust that those girls in the middle are going to be there in a position to hit."

But Ford did her job on the outside as well. She made a kill that tied the fifth set at 13-13.

"Our middles did a great job, but you have to talk about the play of Lauren Ford," Rosenthal said. "Down the stretch she put a ball in the corner. That was a tough ball. It takes a lot of guts to trust you are going to take a little something off of it when you see an opening.

"We said from the beginning of the season knew that Jewell and Lauren were going to have to carry a good size load. Then we added Molly."

Libero Bri McCombs was credited with a match-high 18 digs for the Lady Bisons. Defensive specialist Stephanie Rex added eight. McCombs also had two service aces including the match winner.

"I can't say enough about what Rex and Bri did," Rosenthal said. "It was just phenomenal.

"In the third set our blocking was tremendous and that was set off by Brittnay Estes."

ETSU finishes the season with a 22-9 record. Megan Devine led the Bucs with 15 kills and added 13 digs for a double-double. Katie Muey paced ETSU with 17 digs.

"There were at least five or six times in this match where I am sure both sides thought they were going to win," Rosenthal said. "As a coach it is really hard to stay in the moment. You can't get ahead of yourself because it can all change in a moment.

"I give a lot of credit to our girls and what they continue to do. I thought our coaching staff did a nice job of continuing to push the message of battling. Again, it is all about the little things."