NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Bring out the cowboy hats and the lariats as the Lipscomb Lady Bisons have added a strong Western flavor to the 2015 volleyball schedule.
Four schools from the state of California are joined by teams from Idaho, Nebraska and Utah.
The Lady Bisons finished 21-9 last season and won the Atlantic Sun regular season championship with a 13-1 record. They earned an at-large bid to play in the NCAA Tournament. They also posted the second highest RPI in program history with a final ranking of 39.
Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal is known for challenging his players with difficult non-conference matches and the upcoming season is no exception.
‘I think the thing that jumps out on this schedule versus any of our schedules before is just the wide array of conferences we will be playing,” Rosenthal said. “We have everything from the Pac-12, the Big 10, and the SEC to the West Coast Conference.
“It is kind of neat to see the variations in the teams we are going to be facing. We have come a long way in bringing Lipscomb volleyball to a national scale. To do that you have to play teams like we have scheduled.”
The Lady Bisons will open the season at the Utah Classic in Salt Lake City August 28 with a match against California State-Northridge. They will face Idaho State Aug. 29 followed by host Utah later in the day.
Ball State, Pepperdine and Florida Atlantic will visit Allen Arena Sept. 4 and 5 for the Lipscomb Invitational.
The Lady Bisons head to Omaha, Nebraska for the Bluejay Invite hosted by Creighton Sept. 11 and 12. They will open with Creighton on the 11th and play Pacific and California State-Bakersfield on the 12th.
A brief stop in Oxford, Mississippi to play Ole Miss is schedule for Sept. 16.
Then it is back on the road for the Wildcat Challenge hosted by Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois. The Lady Bisons will face host Northwestern on Sept. 18 and Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Sept. 19.
“We are playing quite a few teams that were in the NCAA Tournament last season and several who were close,” Rosenthal said. “There are a lot of teams we have never faced before like Northridge, Idaho State, Ball State, Pacific, Bakersfield, Northwestern and Milwaukee.
“People within volleyball know it is definitely a tough schedule. It will continue to help us as far as our RPI. That is our plan.”
There will be two “Battles of the Boulevard” this season. The Lady Bisons make the short trip to Belmont Sept. 22. Belmont visits Allen Arena Oct. 20.
Rounding out the non-conference matches is a visit from Western Kentucky Sept. 29.
The A-Sun portion of the season begins on the road Sept 25 as the Lady Bisons head to Newark, N.J., for their first ever meeting with the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders. The Highlanders are the newest addition to the A-Sun replacing Northern Kentucky.
The second A-Sun road trip of the season sends the Lady Bisons to Jacksonville, Florida to face UNF Oct. 9 and Jacksonville Oct. 10.
The rest of the A-Sun road matches are visits to USC Upstate Oct.30, a Halloween match at Kennesaw State Oct. 31 and another Florida trip to play FGCU Nov. 13 and Stetson Nov. 14.
The first A-Sun home matches are Oct. 2 and Oct. 4 against Stetson and FGCU, respectively.
The remaining A-Sun homes matches are USC Upstate (Oct. 16), Kennesaw State (Oct. 18, New Jersey Institute of Technology (Oct. 24), Jacksonville (Nov. 6) and UNF (Nov. 8). The match with Jacksonville will also be “Senior Night”.
The A-Sun Tournament returns to Allen Arena this season Nov. 19-21.
“I think we have a great group to play this schedule,” Rosenthal said. “I think we are going to be well-represented wherever we go.
“We have a bunch of older girls and six younger girls. I think our success is going to be measured by how well we can mold them together.”