LEXINGTON, Ky. – Familiarity bred comfort for the Lipscomb Bisons volleyball players as they went through a workout Thursday afternoon at Memorial Coliseum on the campus of the University of Kentucky to prepare for the NCAA Tournament.
Usually Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal spends part of the warm-up allowing his players to become acquainted with their new surroundings. But the Bisons last played here Sept. 18 when they lost 3-1 to Kentucky.
“It was not a `hey, let’s get a feel for the building’ type of thing,” Rosenthal said. “We were able to really practice. I was very pleased. We had more than enough time to get what we wanted done.
“I felt good about it. There are things we have been working on as of late and you could see some of the culmination of that too.”
Friday at 4 p.m. CT the Bisons, 21-8, will face Ohio State, 21-11, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky and Oakland will play at 6:30. The second round match will be played Saturday at 6 CT.
For more information on the Lexington regional click the NCAA Tournament Central page. Here you can ticket and parking information, as well as information on each of the four teams in the regional.
The Bisons are 33rd in this week’s RPI. Ohio State, from the Big Ten, is 34th. Ohio State has 11 players six feet or taller and four that are 6-foot-3 or taller. It is not anything the Bisons haven’t already faced this season.
“Some of the stuff they do is obviously because of their height and they take advantage of that,” Rosenthal said. “They also have some speed and some of the things we do on a daily basis in transition you are going to see from them.
“The height they have and the first ball opportunities pose a little bit of a challenge. We have battled this all year long.”
It is nothing new for the Bisons.
“There is no disrespect to Ohio State but for our girls this is just another match and another tough opponent, “Rosenthal said. “ I think we have had so many tough opponents on our schedule that it becomes one of those deals where they are prepared and ready for it.”
The Bisons have branded their season with the slogan “the crazy ones” based on a Jack Kerouac quote used in an Apple commercial. The fact his team was preparing for an NCAA match as an at-large bid demonstrates to Rosenthal how appropriate the quote has been.
“We don’t typically unveil our slogan for the year until August, but we unveiled this one back in January,” Rosenthal said. “The reason was we wanted to push the expectations of everybody.
“I read a book called `Insanely Simple’ which looks into Apple. They didn’t settle for good enough. We did things our way and said we were going to go for it.”
The slogan, part of a long passage by Kerouac, has been embraced by the team.
“We were down 0-2 at Kansas with a packed house,” Rosenthal said. “In between sets two and three I said what better way to start the year than to come out and show them what we are all about. We won and we felt great.
“I give credit to them. They are the ones who have taken it and run with it.”
The way they perform this weekend might add even more credence to the ‘crazy ones’ philosophy.
“What better opportunity do we have than this to see if we can really do this,” Rosenthal said. “So many people have told us this wasn’t possible. To be able to have this proves something to everybody else, but more importantly it proves something to the team and helps us to solidify some of the things we are trying to do with our program.
“Our girls work hard and that is a coach’s dream. You paint this vision for them and let them go at it.”
Rain has been a constant, but the team spent some time earlier in the day touring the historic Keeneland horse racing facility.
The one-and-a-half hour practice session was crisp and enthusiastic. Rosenthal thinks his players are ready for their fifth NCAA Tournament.
“This is what we have worked so hard for,” Rosenthal said. “No one can take that away from them.
“What we talked about today was we have earned this. What we do with it the next couple of days is up to us. That is the fun part. We have put it in their hands.”
It is something the Bisons are reminded of each time they walk out of their locker room at Allen Arena. There is a sign on the back of the door that says, “The only thing you deserve is what you earn”.
“We kind of went back to that,” Rosenthal said. “In situations like this it is best to stay at a basic level and go back to your roots than come up with something new they have to wrap their heads around.”