KENNESAW, Ga. - Time seemed to move a little slower. There was an almost surreal feeling with the realization that a season had ended for a team and careers were over for three players.
The Lipscomb Lady Bisons hugged their parents, shed some tears and looked to coach Brandon Rosenthal and his staff for words of comfort and understanding.
Like the good sports and competitiors they are they watched the No. 1-seeded Jacksonville Dolphins accept their Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament trophy and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament that goes with the win.
Outside hitter Lauren Ford and middle blocker Jewell Dobson were honored as members of the All-Tournament team.
The Lady Bisons, playing their third match in as many days at the Kennesaw State University Convocation Center, battled with Jacksonville for five sets Saturday afternoon but lost 3-2.
"I am disappointed with the result, but I am not disappointed with what happened here," Rosenthal said. "We talk about the journey. We talk about what it takes. These are hard to win."
The Purple and Gold started strong winning set one 27-25. Jacksonville evened the match with a 28-26 victory in set two. Jacksonville stretched their advantage to 2-1 with a 25-19 win in set three. The Lady Bisons came back strong in set four to take a 25-16 decision. But Jacksonville would prevail 15-10 in set five.
"This is the cruel side of sports when two good teams go head-to-head," Rosenthal said. "Our girls laid it out there.
"Jacksonville made more plays in the end but I am proud of the girls. Statistically, we had more digs. We had more kills. We had more blocks."
Rosenthal pointed to hitting percentage as the difference in the match. Jacksonville finished with a .227 and the Lady Bisons hit .185.
"Hitting errors are points that are tough," Rosenthal said. "You wonder what if and things like that but you can't do that to yourself.
"The girls played their hardest and that is what it is all about. We battled. I can't say enough about this group. I have had a ton of fun with them. This is a team I will truly, truly cherish. Every day they brought it."
Rosenthal says good-bye to seniors Caitlin "Dot" Dotson, Stephanie Rex and Claire Peterson.
"I have to stop and thank the seniors," Rosenthal said. "They mean so much to me as coach, as a person and to my family. It is hard to see that end for them.
"Those three seniors have two championships. I love them. It is so much more than just volleyball. I ask a lot and they have given a lot."
Four Lady Bisons reached double figures in kills. Dobson tied for the match high with 17. Ford finished with 16. Right side Brittnay Estes and outside hitter Sophie Kellerman each added 13. It was a career and season high for Estes.
"Brittnay played tremendous," Rosenthal said. "We switched her spot this season. She really worked hard and took the instructions we gave her.
"Sophie was solid. You can go down the list with Lauren and Jewell."
Estes hit a team high .348. Ford posted a .343 hitting percentage.
Lipscomb libero Bri McCombs was credited with match-high 17 digs. Setter Kayla Ostrom added 11. McCombs also added two service aces.
Jacksonville's Kylie Jacob tied for the match high in kills with 17. Alyssa Robertson and Taylor Nyquist each made 13. Sammie Strausbaugh added 10.
Strausbaugh recorded the only double-double of the match with 15 digs.
Jacob had a match-high .519 hitting percentage.
The Lady Bisons finished with a 22-8 record, marking the seventh season they have had 20 or more wins in a season. Jacksonville is 29-3.
With the chance for the automatic bid gone, Rosenthal is doubtful that the Lady Bisons will receive an at-large bid.
"I think we are just on the outside looking in," Rosenthal said. "There are some upsets that happened this weekend that are going to make it even tougher.
"We have had a great RPI. We have been in the top 100 for most of the year. That is a huge feat. Now we have to make the next step."