NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Long before the Lipscomb Lady Bisons volleyball team adopted the 2014 season theme of “The Crazy Ones” there was junior Brittnay Estes.
From the first time Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal saw Estes in action he noticed her passion for the game.
“She leads the crazy ones madness and that is awesome,” Rosenthal said. “It suits us and it suits her.
“We recognized that early in the recruiting process with her. We dreamed up this idea that we had to have kids that had some spunk. She is a great personality. She has a zest for life. Sometimes you shake your head at what she does, but she is our Brittnay.”
She is also an award winner. Thursday morning the Tennessee Sportswriters Association (TSWA) named her the first weekly award winner of the season. Tuesday she was named Atlantic Sun Player of the Week .
In the season opener against then No. 23-rated Creighton at the Kansas Invitational she posted the first triple-double of her career with 12 kills, 12 digs and 10 assists. In the 3-2 win over then No. 22-rated Kansas she added a double-double with 11 kills and 13 digs. In a 3-1 victory over Utah Valley she finished with 10 kills.
In the three matches she also posted 14 assists and four service aces.
She plays with reckless abandon posting double figures in kills but often finishing with a low or non-existent hitting percentage. Rosenthal doesn’t mind the trade-off.
“The good far outweighs the bad,” Rosenthal said. “We put her in the right environment and that is a big part of it. We are hard on ourselves, but we also have the freedom to make mistakes as long as we are making mistakes to get better.
“It is a matter of where do you put more emphasis. Some coaches would say just give me the kills. Some would say give me the hitting percentage. It is hard to say with Brittnay. You have to look at the whole team when you integrate her numbers and with Brittnay we need the kills.”
Estes has gradually moved into a major role with the Lady Bisons. Moving from an outside hitter to a right side she has already become a major scoring threat this season.
“She is an athlete by all means,” Rosenthal said. “When you see her run and see her jump you know that.
“But more than that it is her desire…her desire to want to win and to be a part of something special.”
Rosenthal also points to a change in the mentality of Estes as a key factor in her success on the court.
“It is old adage of two points in a basketball game is two points and in volleyball a kill is a kill,” Rosenthal said. “I think she was playing for style points before. Now she realizes that style points don’t get you extra points and in a lot of ways it will take away points
“It was a matter of how hard she could hit the ball instead of finding the open spot. She realized the only way she was going to be able to get out there was to get the ball down and score. It has been fun to watch her work at that and tweak it.”
The Lady Bisons are in Columbia, Missouri this weekend for the Tiger Invitational. They play host Missouri, 2-1, which dropped out of the top 25 this past week, Friday at noon. Saturday they face Oakland, 2-2, at 10 a.m. and Illinois State, 2-1, at 4 p.m.
Estes has been a solid addition to the offensive puzzle pieces for the Lady Bisons, a list that includes middle blocker Jewell Dobson, outside hitter Lauren Ford and middle blocker Molly Spitznagle.
“Where does the other team put Brittnay on the list?,” Rosenthal asks. “Teams put her down on their list of responsibilities and hope she doesn’t hurt them.
“In the back of their minds they have heard Jewell, Jewell, Jewell all week. Now they have to deal with Brittnay.”
While giving kudos to Estes for her strong start, Rosenthal also points to setter Kayla Ostrom as contributing to that success.
“Brittnay has done an outstanding job, but even more than that Kayla has done a tremendous job of finding Brittnay to set her up to score,” Rosenthal said. “It is fun to kind of step out of the way and let Brittnay do her thing. You can’t deny her ability to make plays.
“She is going to become more of a concern for teams and less of a surprise. She is going to be tough for other teams to deal with.”