NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For the Lipscomb volleyball team spring is more than a season to enjoy flowers and warmer weather. It is a time to get down to the gritty work of becoming a better team for the upcoming fall season.
Hard work is the standard for the Lipscomb volleyball program, but coach Brandon Rosenthal was more than a little impressed by the way his returning players turned the usual intenseness of the workouts up another notch or two.
“I was pleased with the progress we made on the court individually and as a team,” Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “One thing I really saw, more than anything, was the individual work outside of the practice structure with the girls coming in and working on their own.
“Comparing springs is like comparing apples and oranges. But I don’t know if we have ever had a team that has done so much work that way.”
Lipscomb won the Atlantic Sun regular season title, the A-Sun Tournament and a trip to its sixth NCAA Regional last season.
Rosenthal said good-bye to right side Brittnay Estes, the A-Sun Player of the Year and middle blockers Jewell Dobson, A-Sun First Team All-Conference, and Molly Spitznagle, A-Sun Second Team All-Conference.
Despite the losses Rosenthal has high hopes for this fall.
“We have passionate players who want to do more than just punch a time card,” Rosenthal said. “This is their program.
“Offensively, anyone from the outside looking in, would say we have a lot to replace. Graduation is something that is planned. It is not a surprise to us. I feel very strong about the players we have coming in and the players we have returning.”
One of the most advantageous aspects of spring practice was Rosenthal and his staff had 11 healthy players working out individually and in limited team drills.
“It was a great spring in the sense of training,” Rosenthal said. “It was great to have 11 players, but six of them were brand new (in terms of participating in spring practice).
“I won’t say it proposed a challenge. It was just brand new for them. We had a lot of work to do with those six individuals.”
One challenge, both the players and coaches are aware of, remains. And that is establishing leadership for the 2016 season.
“We have constantly been addressing it through the spring,” Rosenthal said. “Where does that voice come from? What is everybody’s role?
“Part of the success we have had through the years is allowing the players to work through that. It is a hard thing to allow that process to happen. We want it to happen as quickly as possible. We made some good steps in that area in the spring, but we are nowhere near where we need to be.”
Rosenthal stresses there are several players who have leadership skills, but he is looking for that one person he and his coaches, as well as the players, can turn to when needed.
“When the going gets tough you need somebody,” Rosenthal said. “You need that one voice. Who is that one voice going to be? And how does that voice go about it? We have freshmen who are going to be sophomores who want those leadership roles. We have sophomore who are going to be juniors who want those leadership roles. And we have juniors who are going to be seniors who want to be in leadership roles.
“It is exciting. It is frustrating. I am hoping they develop their structure and work together. It is all encompassing as to what this program could be this year. ”
Rosenthal was impressed with the spring development of several players including outside hitter Lauren Anderson, right side-outside hitter Chloe Rogers, setter Kayla Ostrom and middle blocker Katie Bradley.
“Towards the end of last fall Lauren became this player who did so much offensively and defensively,” Rosenthal said. “The focus for her this spring was offense and she rose to that occasion.
“We gave Chloe some looks on the right side and I thought she played extremely well offensively. Kayla was just amazing with the spring she had. Katie is going to be back in a starting role. She knows how to play in tough matches.”
Rosenthal thinks the program is still on the rise. After being in or near the top 50 in the RPI the past two seasons with a 39 ranking in 2014 and a 51 ranking in 2015, Rosenthal wants to see his team move into the top 30.
“We are once again back in that place where people are going to ask what is next,” Rosenthal said. “I caution anybody out there to think we won’t be ready. We will be.
“Some people may think that is crazy, but for the past 10 years our reputation and consistency have gone hand-in-hand. When I say this team is going to continue to make moves into the top 30 I have no doubt in my mind.”