NASHVILLE, Tenn. – High expectations are nothing new for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons volleyball team.
This season the Lady Bisons received six of eight first place votes in a preseason poll of coaches in the Atlantic Sun. Coach Brandon Rosenthal has not been shy to sing the praises of the 2014 team and make predictions of an NCAA Tournament trip.
Individually the coaches predict that Jewell Dobson will repeat as A-Sun Player of the Year and that Bri McCombs will once again be A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year. Dobson was the only unanimous selection for the A-Sun Preseason All-Conference team. She is joined by McCombs and Lauren Ford.
Ford, who serves as a team captain along with Dobson and Sophie Kellerman, points to what Rosenthal expects of his players as the ultimate driving force.
“Brandon has set the example from the beginning that regardless of what other people are thinking we can accomplish he is going to push this team farther than what we think we can go,” Ford said. “That is what drives us.”
The players are taking the preseason expectations in stride as they prepare to open the season Friday morning against No. 23-ranked Creighton in the Kansas Invitational in Lawrence, Kansas. Friday night they face No. 22-rated Kansas. Saturday they close out the tournament against Utah Valley.
“I think we use it as motivation,” Dobson said. “I don’t think we really pay much attention to it. It is nothing we really take into account. I think we realize it is a preseason ranking and what matters is what we actually do with it.
“We don’t look to the outside for our expectations or our goals. I think that is part of the crazy theme we have going on. We are in this together. This is for us. We are going to look to each other for what we want and what we know we can do.”
Ford says the A-Sun ranking has not been a topic of discussion among the players. Both Ford and Dobson made a trip to the NCAA Tournament with the Lady Bisons their freshmen years. They want to end their careers by not only returning to the tournament, but making an impact.
“Brandon has not brought it up,” Ford said. “We are the preseason No. 1, but it is in the past now. It is what people think. It is before anyone does anything. It is what it is.
“To some degree we say we have to prepare (for expectations). But it is no different than how we would prepare if we were No. 2 or No. 3 or last. We prepare to be the best regardless of where we are ranked.”
Brittnay Estes agrees with Ford about the level of expectation for the team.
“We play our way,” Estes said. “We have worked hard in the spring and fall to be in that No. 1 spot. We want to be No.1 because it gives us that push and that motivation.
“We have to play the best we can be no matter what. As No. 1 it gives us a reason to play even better.”
Molly Spitznagle thinks the experience of the team is the key, not a ranking.
“We are focusing on our experience and confidence to get us through this weekend and to push us through the whole season,” Spitznagle said. “It is our way and not anyone else’s.
“There is obviously pressure on us. But we are such a cohesive unit we can go to each other for that confidence when we fill pressure.”
McCombs agrees the ranking and expectations give the players confidence, but also admits it helps to keep them humble.
“We know being No. 1 is achievable,” McCombs said. “We work extremely hard to obtain that high bar we set for ourselves. If we hold ourselves to a perfect standard we will never be satisfied.”
Kellerman stresses everyone on the team knows that what happens at the end of the season is most important.
“We haven’t hyped ourselves up about it,” Kellerman said. “Ever since I have been here we have had the expectation that we were going to win the conference.
“I don’t see this year as any different. We have all the pieces. We know what we have to do.”