NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With one of the most anticipated seasons in program history a little more than two weeks away, the Lipscomb volleyball team officially kicked off 2017 Wednesday morning with a pair of practices inside Allen Arena.
Entering his 15th season at the helm of the program, Lipscomb head coach Brandon Rosenthal is always excited to get back on the court, but says this time of year can be both fun and challenging.
“First of all, it is always good to get back in the full swing of things,” Rosenthal said. “After you have been sitting behind a desk and recruiting for so long, there is a different mindset and pace.
“As a coach you sit here and plan practice and there’s a hundred things to do at the very beginning, but picking two or three things and trusting that those areas are going to lead to the success of your program is both fun and challenging.
“There are things that as a staff we have discussed over the spring and summer about emphasizing, and now all of a sudden you’re putting that in play and setting that mindset and culture for the next five months.”
Lipscomb returns 10 letterwinners – including three starters and the libero – from a squad that finished 22-8 and earned a third-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament after winning both the ASUN Regular Season and Tournament Championships.
Highlighting the list of returners is the reigning ASUN Player of the Year – Carlyle Nusbaum. The junior outside hitter led the conference with 491 kills and 4.50 kills per set, earning her an AVCA All-South Region selection and All-American Honorable Mention honors from three publications.
Joining Nusbaum are second team All-ASUN selections - senior libero Brittany Thomas and junior outside hitter Lauren Anderson – as well as a pair of ASUN All-Freshmen members Maddie Phillips and Morgan Elmore.
To complement the wealth of experience returning are five fresh faces – Megan Kuper, Alyssa Zwolensky, Ashley Maher, Samantha Rubal and Megan Sullivan, who transferred from the University of Houston after her freshman season.
“The energy has been fantastic,” said Rosenthal. “You can tell the experience of the girls being together for the month of July is evident and prevalent, immediately. And that is really exciting for a coach because it takes some of that leg work out that you traditionally would have to do and now you can focus on the skill of it.”
Rosenthal’s message to his team is there are no starting jobs promised. Regardless of class, if you come in and earn it, you will play.
“For us it has always been the same thing, freshmen are more than welcome to take starting roles,” Rosenthal said. “What I mean by that is we don’t look at what year you are when forming the starting group. In years past we typically have had freshmen play significant roles.
“It’s always exciting to see who comes in and jumps to the front right away. We have a good balance of new players who we expect to be crucial members of this program. It is up to them if that’s this year or down the road.”
For the Bisons to take that next step in 2017 and finally advance past the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, they have to be better when blocking balls at the net.
“There is no doubt we were one of the top, if not the top offense in the nation last season, and I don’t see that being any different this year,” Rosenthal said. “So for us, it all comes down to blocking. We have to find ways to block more balls.
“That has been one of our main focuses this spring and will continue be throughout the fall. When you talk about the difference in winning and losing one of those high-level matches, it’s typically only one or two points. As we sit here 10 days out from our exhibition match, our main priority is blocking.”
Lipscomb will host the University of Tennessee on August 19 in its first-ever true exhibition match before opening the regular season with its annual two-day LUV Invite on August 25-26. The Bisons will host ETSU, Wichita State and preseason No. 24 Arizona in that opening weekend.
“The buzz around practice and the offices and the immediacy to get work done is exciting,” Rosenthal said. “I don’t sleep all that much anyways, so it is fun to get going and get lost in the job. This is going to be an exciting year for us.”