NASHVILLE – The 2019 Lipscomb volleyball season is officially underway as the Bisons held their first practices of fall camp Thursday in Allen Arena.
Unlike last season when the Bisons were forced to bounce around from facility to facility while the new floor was being installed in the arena, head coach Brandon Rosenthal and his staff are glad to be in one location.
“To sit here in the office and not have to load everything up and go from one gym to the next is really, really nice,” Rosenthal said. “The freshman now have no idea how tough it really was, but we are glad to be at home in Allen Arena.”
Rosenthal enters his 17th season with the program and, unlike last season, welcomes back a roster that is somewhat youthful in terms of experience. Of the 10 returnees from the 2018 squad, only two made at least 15 starts.
“One of the biggest things the girls have been working on is their identity,” Rosenthal said. “Losing a big class like we did from a season ago, there are a lot of opportunities for the girls to find their place. This is a group that isn’t afraid to get after it and it’s been fun to see.”
Despite losing two-time ASUN Player of the Year Carlyle Nusbaum, Lipscomb has a number of talented pieces to work with.
Junior outside hitter Megan Kuper returns to lead the offensive attack. The Olathe, Kansas product returns as the team leader in kills (290), points (349.5), blocks (47) and service aces (35). She will also be the second-leading returner in assists (19) and digs (216).
“Megan Kuper is the one that really jumps out,” Rosenthal said. “She’s a six-rotation player that has a lot of versatility. At the end of last year it really became apparent of what all she could do offensively and we’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get even more from her.”
Returning alongside Kuper will be starting middles Maddie Phillips and Sami Rubal, setter Morgan Elmore, libero Ashley Maher and outside hitter Lanie Wagner and Logan Gish.
Rubal and Phillips give the Bisons plenty of experience on the inside, as they are the second and third-leading returners in kills and blocks. Rubal posted 113 kills and 39 blocks in 2018, while Phillips poured in 108 and 36, respectively.
“Both middles are really experienced,” Rosenthal said. “Maddie has been steady throughout her career and Sami had some huge matches at the end last season. I want to see them both take another step and it will be fun helping them get there.”
Elmore finished last season as the ASUN’s second-leading assister with 1,080 total helpers and 10.00 assists per set. In conference play, she upped her per set average to 11.10 after registering at least 40 assists in 11 league contests.
“Morgan has worked extremely hard to get to where she is,” Rosenthal said. “She’s the elder statesman and really has a chance to put her stamp on this team.”
Rosenthal likes what he has seen from Wagner and Gish in the offseason and will be expecting them to take their game to the next level.
“Lanie and Logan are two that really had interesting freshman years,” Rosenthal said. “Lanie came out strong to begin the season and then struggled a little bit through the latter half. Logan took her place and ran with it towards the end of the season. To see what they did through the spring was phenomenal. I give a lot of credit to both of them and how hard they’ve worked.”
Joining the program this season will be four talented newcomers, including freshmen Bree Thompson, Lauren Myrick and Brooke Phillips, and a sophomore transfer from Purdue, Garrett Joiner.
Thompson and Myrick will add depth on the outside, while Phillips provides another option behind Elmore. The transfer Joiner gives Rosenthal more height on the outside as she and Rubal are the team’s tallest players at 6-foot-3.
“From a looks standpoint, our size is pretty impressive after adding some height with our newcomers,” Rosenthal said. “Although we’ve had some height before, I think the overall size of this team is as big as we’ve ever been. With that, blocking is an area we should improve upon.”
Senior Megan Sullivan, Kuper and Wagner were voted team captains for 2019.
“This group gets it and they want to push each another in order to create their own legacy,” Rosenthal said.
After reaching the finals of the ASUN Championship nine times in the previous 10 years, the Bisons have failed to reach the title match in each of the last two seasons, falling to Kennesaw State in the semifinals.
Lipscomb finished third in the conference standings last season after going 18-12 overall and 12-4 in the ASUN. Its four losses in league play came at the hands of FGCU and KSU.
The Bisons will hold practice over the next two weeks prior to its only exhibition on the schedule, when they host Tennessee Tech at 2 p.m. in Allen Arena. Lipscomb will then open the regular season a week later on August 30-31 in TCU’s Cowtown Classic. They will take on High Point and Villanova on that Friday and then wrap it up against the Horned Frogs on Saturday.
Season tickets are on sale and can be purchased HERE.