FORT MYERS, Fla. – As Brandon Rosenthal walked into the front lobby of Alico Arena on the Florida Gulf Coast campus he was greeted with shouts of “COY, COY, COY” from his players.
He has not changed his name. But the players, after their first workout for the Atlantic Sun Conference Volleyball Tournament, had been told of Rosenthal’s honor as A-Sun Coach of the Year.
It is the second time in 12 seasons that Rosenthal has been honored by his peers with the award. He humbly accepted the news of the award. He deflected any praise to assistant coaches Ann Armes and Billy Ebel, strength and conditioning coach Will Osburn and trainer Kelsey Ferguson.
“If anything it means I have a great staff,” Rosenthal said. “And more than anything the credit goes to the girls for buying into a vision. I didn’t do anything other than put the vision out there and give them the keys to the car.”
Also honored by the coaches were senior outside hitter Lauren Ford and junior middle blocker Molly Spitznagle as A-Sun First Team All-Conference selections. Junior right side Brittnay Estes, senior outside hitter Sophie Kellerman and sophomore setter Kayla Ostrom were named to A-Sun Second Team All-Conference.
“I feel great,” Rosenthal said of the selections. “It is the makeup of our team. Not one person is realty doing everything. We spread the offense around. I am excited to see the representation of a team. That is really what it is about.”
Ford has been second in the A-Sun in both kills and kills per set this season. She was a unanimous selection, one of the three on the team. It is her second year to be First Team All-Conference.
“Lauren is one of those players who has been a force to reckon with since her freshman year,” Rosenthal said. “It was really neat to see her get that recognition her senior year with a unanimous vote.
“She continues to be somebody whose name has a star next to it on every scouting report. Lauren understands that. She didn’t get here by luck. She worked herself into this position. She is one of those kids who never stops working.”
Spitznagle stepped up in the middle after the loss of Jewell Dobson for the season. She was in the top four in hitting percentage overall and fifth in A-Sun matches only. She was also sixth overall in blocks per and seventh in conference matches.
“It is great to see Molly get the recognition,” Rosenthal said. “She has really worked hard and had to step up in her role.”
Estes was 11th in kills overall, 13th in A-Sun matches. She had 11 double-doubles in kills and digs and one triple-double in kills, digs and assists.
“To say that she is a rising star is just that,” Rosenthal said. “The kid is a player. She continues to show what she is capable of. The future is very bright for her.
“It is exciting to see her at this spot. A year ago we had her out there and we were just doing a couple of things with her. Now we have taken the restrictor plate off. We are ready to go with her and she is ready to go as well.”
The impact of Estes goes beyond her stats. She provides a strong emotional boost for the team.
“That is why we got her originally,” Rosenthal said. “We knew she would be a huge part of what we are doing outside of the actual play.”
Kellerman’s success on the court cannot be measured by stats alone. She has consistently been able to make the key play in crucial situations. She has eight double-doubles in kills and digs including three of her last four matches.
“I can’t say enough about Sophie and what she does on a daily basis whether it is in practice or in a match,” Rosenthal said.
Ostrom, ranked No. 2 this season overall in assists per set and first in A-Sun matches in assists per set, sat out five complete matches and two sets of another, but managed to earn second team honors. When she was out senior Jordan Huston filled in with a string of six solid performances.
“You wonder what Kayla would have done if she had stayed healthy, but you also have to understand that is part of the season,” Rosenthal said. “I think Kayla understands it.
“Jordan should get some of the credit as well. When we talk about the team, the team never faltered. And when you talk about a setting position you have to look at the kills. Our kills per set didn’t drop at all as Jordan picked up where we left off.”
The Lady Bisons lead the conference in kills per set both overall and in conference matches.
“The offense, being as potent as it is, is really a key factor for both Kayla and Jordan,” Rosenthal said. “Kayla has done a great job of putting us into a good position, not only during the conference season, but before that. It is well –deserved on Kayla’s part.”
The Lady Bisons, the A-Sun regular season champion, are the No. 1 seed in the tournament. They have bye in the quarterfinals and will play their first match in the semifinals Friday.