SPARTANBURG, S.C. – For the first time this season the Lipscomb volleyball team is riding a bus for a weekend series. When it is over coach Brandon Rosenthal is hopeful his team will still be in the driver’s seat in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
The first stop Friday is USC Upstate at the Hodge Center at 5 p.m. Saturday they visit Kennesaw State for a 6 p.m. match. The Bisons are 15-8, 7-1 in the A-Sun. They are tied for first with Florida Gulf Coast.
“It is a chance and an opportunity for us to cement our path,” Rosenthal said. “Everybody is kind of jumbled up in the middle.
“We played well this past week and won some good matches. It is simple for us. We are at the front of the pack and we know this weekend is pretty valuable. This is the part of the season where you really have a chance to fall back into the group or stay ahead. We would obviously like to stay ahead and keep that distance.”
The Bisons swept USC Upstate 3-0 at Allen Arena Oct. 16 on an emotional evening. It was the first match played by the Spartans since the deaths of four student-athletes in an automobile accident.
“Upstate is a tough team to play on their home court,” Rosenthal said. “We are not overlooking them by any means. They have some pretty talented players.
“When we played them the first time they were dealing with some things, that quite honestly, were too much to overcome. I felt for them and what they were going through. That said, they are talented and hungry and they are fighting. That is dangerous, especially on the road.”
Kennesaw State is the only conference team to beat the Bisons this season and only the second team do so in two seasons. The Owls won that match 3-2 Oct. 18.
“We have one match where we have kind of let up and unfortunately that is one of the teams we play this weekend,” Rosenthal said. “I don’t want to say we have a chance to avenge a loss, but we have the chance to take on an opponent that got the better of us.
“I think our girls will be hungry to show what they are about. It was a good win for Kennesaw and a wake-up call for us.”
Scouting Upstate: The Spartans are coming off a 3-2 home loss to Kennesaw State. They have lost seven of their last eight matches.
Five Spartans have made more than 100 kills this season. Emily Koelling leads with 244, 2.68 per set. Madison Haake has 219, 2.70 per set.
Seven players have more than 100 digs. Five have more than 200 with Haake setting the pace with 277.
The Spartans lead the conference overall in digs with 1,649, 18.12 per set. They also are first in digs in conference matches only with 565, 17.06 per set.
Upstate is 13-11 overall, 1-7 in the conference. The Spartans are 2-3 at home.
The series: Upstate has never beaten Lipscomb. The Bisons are 15-0 in the series.
Scouting Kennesaw State: The Owls have three players with more than 100 kills with Ananiah Boyer leading with 211, 2.93 per set.
Four players have more than 100 digs. Katarina Morton sets the pace with 275, 4.17 per set.
Rachel Taylor has 48 blocks, nine solo.
Kennesaw State is first in the conference overall with a .166 opponent hitting percentage.
Kennesaw State enters the weekend with a 13-6 record, 5-3 in the A-Sun. The Owls have won their last three matches and are 6-2 overall at home. They will face NJIT Friday night before facing Lipscomb.
The series: The last outing between the two teams marked the first win for the Owls in the series. Lipscomb leads 16-1.
Killing floor: Six Bisons have more than 100 kills – middle blocker Jewell Dobson (270), right side Brittnay Estes (264), middle blocker Molly Spitznagle (182), outside hitter Lauren Anderson (162), outside hitter Carly Nusbaum (160), and outside hitter Chloe Rogers (123).
Digging it: Five Lipscomb players have more than 100 digs – libero Brittany Thomas (357), Estes (210), Lauren Anderson (202), setter Kayla Ostrom (172) and defensive specialist Jenny Phelan (132).
Match records: The Bisons are 6-4 in three-set matches, 5-2 in four-set matches and 4-2 in five-set matches.
On the road: Lipscomb is 5-3 overall on the road this season. The Bisons have won their last two matches and seven of the last eight.
National update: Setter Kayla Ostrom continues to be in the top 10 in assists. She is sixth nationally in assists per set (11.77) and 10th in total assists (1,036).
As a team the Bisons are 13th in assists per set (13.44) and 19th in team assists (1,183). They are 30th in team kills with 1,240. They are 32nd in kills per set with 14.09.