NASHVILLE, Tenn. – From the first time his volleyball team set foot on the court at Allen Arena for its first preseason practice coach Brandon Rosenthal was confident he had the pieces of the puzzle for a truly special team.
He realized in the first three matches of the season that his players shared in his assessment.
“I had an idea they were a pretty confident group, but you put freshmen and sophomores out there and you want to see it,” Rosenthal said. “I expected them to play with confidence, but what was interesting was how quickly it came about and how much they believe in themselves and the program. “
Saturday night in the final match of the Utah Classic they faced host Utah, then rated No. 23 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll, at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.
“From the very first whistle against Utah they were not intimidated in the least bit,” Rosenthal said. “Utah does a fantastic job with the pregame stuff and the lights out. To be in a different environment like that you wonder what is going to happen.
“They didn’t even flinch. We scored the first point in the match and we didn’t bat an eye after that. Usually in the first 10 points of a match you can tell, but after the first point I knew we were in the right frame of mind. We battled. It was point for point.”
Continuing the subject of fast starts, the freshman outside hitters Lauren Anderson and Carly Nusbaum, lived up to the preseason hype surrounding them.
Anderson was in double figures in kills in two matches and recorded a double-double in her collegiate debut match against Cal State-Northridge.
Nusbaum, who missed the Idaho State match Saturday afternoon with an ankle problem, rebounded against Utah for a team-high 17 kills.
“That was nice to see,” Rosenthal said. “But again we knew how good they were when we recruited them. It is exactly what we imagined. You can definitely see where having them play the way they did has the potential to be huge for us the next four years.”
Rosenthal has talked about the depth of this team since the group was assembled. The options available to him on the court are many. Against Utah four players were in double figures in kills.
“When you have so many options it is hard for the other team mentally and physically,” Rosenthal said. “Something we have with this group is diversity. You can make matchups for one or two people, or maybe three, but we are talking about five or six options. That is going to cause problems for the other team.
“Then you look at our side out percentage. Late in the Utah match we were in the 70 percent range. That means every time the ball was served we were winning the point 70 percent of the time. This is an indication of how good we can be.”
Lipscomb received 18 votes for the AVCA Top 25 poll in the first week of the season.
“It is awesome to be in the national conversation,” Rosenthal said. “It is validation of what we have been saying. We are part of the national landscape.
“We can talk about the votes all we want or we can get in the Top 25. It is not 26 teams. It is 25 and we want to be one of those teams.”
YOU ARE INVITED
The Lady Bisons are hosting the Lipscomb Invitational Friday and Saturday in Allen Arena.
Pepperdine and FAU play at 10 a.m. followed by Lipscomb and Ball State at 12:30.
FAU and Ball State face each other at 5 p.m. followed by Lipscomb and Pepperdine in the nightcap at 7:30. The match with Pepperdine will be shown on A-Sun TV.
Lunch will be served by Sodexo Friday in front of Allen Arena.
Saturday Pepperdine and Ball State open with a 12:30 p.m. match. Lipscomb and FAU play in the final match at 2:30 p.m. The match with FAU can be seen on ESPN3.
Lipscomb and Ball State are 3-0 after the first weekend. FAU and Pepperdine are 4-0. Ball State has a mid-week match scheduled with IUPUI.
“It is what we hoped from the tournament,” Rosenthal said. “We built this schedule to challenge us early and prepare us for the conference season.”