NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The “Crazy Ones” are headed to Lexington, Kentucky to do a little dancing this weekend.
The Lipscomb Bisons volleyball team has made history as the first Atlantic Sun Conference volleyball team to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Bisons had to wait until the last bracket to hear their named called, but they will play Ohio State, 21-11, in the first round. The match is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 5 at 4 p.m.
This past week Lipscomb head coach Brandon Rosenthal had listed on the back of an envelope the 64 teams he expected to be in the tournament. The envelope was visibly crumpled as he squeezed it in his hands during the telecast of the NCAA Selection Show on ESPNU.
“Having never gone to the NCAA Tournament before in this situation (as an at-large) is nerve-wracking,” Rosenthal said. “The quote before our name was called is `we have a first’ and since it was in the Kentucky bracket I closed my eyes and hoped he was going to say what I thought he was going to say.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know if half of our girls heard who we were playing. They saw our name and we couldn’t hear anything after that. It was loud. There were hugs and cheers. Everyone was jumping up and screaming.”
The winner will face the winner of the Kentucky-Oakland first round match. That match is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday.
This will be the fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament for the Bisons.
The team watched the selection show at Rosenthal’s home. Within seconds of the announcement Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry called Rosenthal.
“There was a loud cheer when I held the phone up so everyone could hear him,” Rosenthal said. “We are a wonderful story and I think he is proud of what we have done.
“He believes like we all do that if we are going to be Division I then we need to be the best we can be. Being good enough is not what we want. We want to be the best in everything we do. And if we can’t be the best then we are to give the best effort that we can give.”
The Bisons played Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2010 in Columbus, Ohio. They lost 3-1 in the match.
“We saw them in the spring,” Rosenthal said. “There is respect there, but there is not fear. I don’t say that out of disrespect, it is just where our program is.
“I think it is a good draw for us. I am excited about it.”
The Bisons, 21-8, faced both Kentucky and Oakland this season. They swept Oakland 3-0 Sept. 6 and lost at Kentucky 3-1 Sept. 18.
Rosenthal credits everyone who has been involved with the program for the past 12 years. He stressed that being one of the 32 teams that earned at-large bids was a culmination of all of those years of work.
“What I try to tell people is it isn’t just this year,” Rosenthal said. “It has been 12 years of people grinding it out. And this last week was the ultimate grind.
“It is an amazing feeling for these girls, the girls who came before us, former assistant coaches, athletic trainers and strength and conditioning coaches. We get to play but this is so much more about who we are now. I have always believed it but in the volleyball world it solidifies it.”
Jacksonville received the automatic A-Sun Conference bid to the NCAA Tournament having beaten the Bisons, the regular season champions, in the tournament finals.
The Lipscomb softball team earned the first A-Sun at-large bid in the spring.
Rosenthal believed his team had a chance as it climbed the RPI, finishing this past week at No. 31.
“Twelve years ago we were just as close to the bottom of the RPI as we are close to the top now,” Rosenthal said. “RPI-wise it is probably one of the biggest jumps ever.”