The Lipscomb volleyball team wants to win the Atlantic Sun regular season title again. They want to break two years of losses in the A-Sun Tournament Finals and win the automatic bid for a return to the NCAA Tournament. And this year they want to advance past the first round in the regionals.
The question and challenge that Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal has posed to his players as he prepares to coach his 13th season is “how bad do you want it?”
“They go through struggles on a daily basis,” Rosenthal said. “Some of these girls have been at work for nine months to get back to this spot. It is a grind each and every day. They have to have the mindset to remind themselves how bad they want it.
“There are people who talk about wanting something bad but it is a matter of going out and getting things done. It is a reminder that this is what we wanted.”
Rosenthal draws from a book, “The Secret to Success”, by Eric Thomas.
“Thomas tells about a young guy wanting to learn from a guru,” Rosenthal said. “The guru takes the guy to the water and says when you want to succeed as badly as you to breathe you are ready and then he dunks the guy under the water.
“It is about making sacrifices. It is about understanding what is at stake.”
Every college volleyball team in the country says each preseason the goal is to be a champion. Every team is practicing. Everybody team is working. Rosenthal stresses teams are separated by what they are willing to do extra to achieve their goals.
“There is a lot of pride that goes into this team,” Rosenthal said. “It is the DNA of the program.
“Players coming into this team have to understand they are to give 100 percent in everything they do. That still might not get you to the Promised Land, but you are going to be able to go to sleep at night knowing you have done your best.”
The new kids are all right
Rosenthal has added six freshmen this year, more than one-third of the team.
“They have learned about responsibility and taking care of the things they need to take care of,” Rosenthal said. “Just their talent alone is not going to get them through. They can’t skate by on their talent alone whether it is in practice or the things that need to be done outside of practice.
“All you have is your word. When you say to me or your teammates you are going to get things done and you don’t then it allows doubt to creep in. Not only are you being held accountable to yourself but you are being held accountable with the rest of your class.”
The Lipscomb players have a lot of individual talent. Rosenthal calls it the deepest team he has ever coached. But all of that individual talent has to work as a team.
“You might think because we are so talented individually that at any point we can turn it on or off,” Rosenthal said. “Before you know it you are down by six and it isn’t a game of talent any more. It is a game of time.
“We have to get out of the gates and establish our style of play early. Once we do that everything will be easier.”
Show them the way
Jewell Dobson, Molly Spitznagle and Brittnay Estes are the captains. Rosenthal expects the three to be vocal, but expects them to lead more from their examples on the court.
The return of Dobson as a middle blocker after spending last season as a redshirt after four matches due to an injury is a bonus for the team. She is healthy and ready to go.
“Jewell is doing great,” Rosenthal said. “She is ready to go. It is not going to take her very long to get into a rhythm.”
Dobson joins Spitznagle and Katie Bradley in the middle as three potential starters.
“We could give one of them a break or make changes based on matchups,” Rosenthal said. “Jewell is just so fast. She puts pressure on the defense to make decisions.
“Most of Molly’s attacks are from the front. Teamed with Jewell one is standing in front and one is behind. Katie is a mixture of both of them. The three could really wreak some havoc on teams.”
Estes at the right side picked up more of the offense last season after Dobson was sidelined.
“Britt is going to play all the way around,” Rosenthal said. “We need her on that floor. She plays with such passion.
“Britt is also older. She is more experienced and more mature in her approach. Her body has taken a beating the last three years. She is going to have to be that savvy veteran.”
Outside hitters Lauren Ford and Sophie Kellerman graduated this year. Rosenthal is going to be looking at his freshmen to fill the void.
“Lauren Anderson and Carly Nusbaum are explosive and dynamic coming in as freshmen just as they were billed and we expected,” Rosenthal said. “Chloe Rogers (a sophomore) has also done a fantastic job.
“They are all very talented. You count on that position so much to get you a point when you need it. They are a little bit different with some flexibility we can use.
Rosenthal describes Nusbaum as one of the most explosive players on the team. He rates Lauren Anderson as a combination of Ford and Kellerman.
“Both of them are on the smaller side,” Rosenthal said. “Chloe Rogers has a lot of power. There is a lot of power between the three of them.”
Setting the stage
Junior Kayla Ostrom returns as the setter. Freshman Marcella Emmanuelli is preparing at the position as well.
“Kayla has gotten even better,” Rosenthal said. “Last year was her first year to run the offense.
“I think she is ready to get back and really get going. She represents pure leadership. The understanding between Kayla and me and the other coaches has grown where she has more freedom to run the offense.”
Brittany Thomas is expected to start at libero with Jenny Phelan and Kaitlyn Teeter in the mix.
“Brittany is an unbelievable defender,” Rosenthal said. “She is getting better every day. She is going to make some great plays.”