Brandon Rosenthal enters his 17th season as the head coach of the Lipscomb volleyball team and he wants to leave a legacy that will not soon be forgotten. In other words, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
“I truly believe in what we are doing,” Rosenthal said. “I believe in the coaching style."
His players believe as well.
The 2017 season did not go as planned for Rosenthal and his Bisons as they finished 16-13 overall and earned the No. 4 seed in the ASUN Tournament with an 8-6 record. It marked the first time since 2007 that they didn’t finish in the top three. They defeated No. 5 North Florida 3-0 in the opening round before falling 3-1 to eventual tournament champion, No. 1 Kennesaw State.
Carlyle Nusbaum earned her second-straight ASUN Player of the Year honor after putting together one of the best seasons in ASUN history. She led the ASUN in kills and ranked 11th nationally with 479 total kills. Her 5.15 kills per set was the third-highest single-season mark in league history and the most since 2005. Her 509.5 points and 5.5 points per set were fourth most in the NCAA.
The Bisons finished off back-to-back seasons as the ASUN regular season (12-2) and ASUN Tournament champion in 2016 with a 22-8 overall mark. Entering the conference tournament as the top seed on its home floor, Lipscomb swept No. 5 USC Upstate in the semifinals before upending No. 3 FGCU 3-1 in the title match. The Bisons closed out the season with their seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament, a 3-0 loss at Kansas State.
The 2015 season saw Lipscomb win both the ASUN regular season title with a 13-1 record and the ASUN Tournament with a three-match sweep. A loss to UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament ended the season. Lipscomb finished 23-9 overall.
In 2014 they finished 13-1 in the Atlantic Sun Conference and won the regular season title. They entered the A-Sun Tournament as the No. 1 seed but lost 3-1 to Jacksonville in the championship match.
They made history, however, becoming the first A-Sun volleyball team to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Lipscomb traveled to Lexington, Kentucky and lost to Ohio State in the first round. They finished the season with a 21-9 record and were rated 39th in the final NCAA RPI, the second highest rating in program history.
Rosenthal was named American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) South Region Coach of the Year and was also selected as Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year for 2014. He also was named A-Sun Coach of the Year in 2009.
Overall, Rosenthal is 280-182 at Lipscomb, a .606 winning percentage, entering the 2018 season. In the ASUN he holds a 154-40 record, a .770 winning percentage.
Rosenthal isn’t sitting on his laurels either. And he has more than his share. He has led the program to:
- Seven NCAA Tournament appearances: 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016.
- Six ASUN Tournament Championships: 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016.
- Appearances in the ASUN championship game in nine of the last 11 seasons.
- 13 consecutive trips to the ASUN tournament.
- Six regular season ASUN titles: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016.
- A 46-game conference unbeaten streak.
- Eight ASUN Players of the Year: Alex Kelly (2008 and 2009), Stefine “Jake” Pease (2010), Katie Rose (2011), Jewell Dobson (2013), Brittnay Estes (2015), Carlyle Nusbaum (2016 and 2017).
- Two ASUN Defensive Players of the Year: Ann Mullins (2005), Bri McCombs (2013).
- One ASUN Setter of the Year: Kayla Ostrom (2015).
- Nine seasons with 20 or more victories.
- Two undefeated A-Sun seasons (20-0 in 2009, 10-0 in 2010).
“We still have more work to do,” Rosenthal said. “If there is a challenge I am really attaching my name to it is the idea that I want to take this program to the `Sweet 16’ and beyond.
“That is what I tell our recruits. It sounds absolutely crazy to most, but where we are today sounded crazy to most people 12 years ago.”
In 2013 Lipscomb fell 3-2 to Jacksonville in the A-Sun Championship match at Kennesaw State. They finished second in the conference with a 15-3 record, 23-8 overall.
The 2012 season also ended in disappointment when Lipscomb lost 3-1 to ETSU in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Tournament ending a string of three straight A-Sun Tournament Champions and three consecutive bids to the NCAA Tournament, The Lady Bisons were 18-12 overall, 15-3 in the A-Sun.
Building off the successes of the previous two seasons Rosenthal's squad made back-to-back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament by winning the 2011 A-Sun Tournament held at Allen Arena.
Lipscomb was sent west for the first time to take on the Texas A & M Aggies in College Station, Texas. The match proved to be a slugfest with the Aggies taking the first two games before Lipscomb rallied in the third. Texas A&M eventually pulled away late in the fourth set but the match was extremely close to going the Lipscomb’s way. The Lipscomb volleyball team finished 20-11 overall, 11-2 in the A-Sun, a second place finish.
There were a number of firsts in 2010 for Rosenthal’s club as Lipscomb repeated its successes of the 2009 campaign and made it back-to-back A-Sun regular season and conference championships for the first time in school history.
They continued their A-Sun winning streak of 37 matches that dated back to the 2009 season, with a perfect 12-0 finish in league play in 2010.
Lipscomb then made a herculean comeback in the A-Sun tournament championship game to rally from a 2-0 deficit to down East Tennessee State and advance to face Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament in Columbus, Ohio.
The trip to Columbus, Ohio for the regional saw Lipscomb come close to pulling the upset over the Buckeyes losing 3-1 but lost two of the sets by three points or less. The Lady Bisons closed out the season with a 24-7 record while going 10-0 in the conference.
The 2009 season was truly a "banner" year for head coach Brandon Rosenthal and the Lipscomb volleyball program. The team ran the A-Sun table finishing a perfect 20-0 in league play, a feat never before accomplished since the conference was founded in 1978.
The Lipscomb volleyball team went on to win its second A-Sun tournament in three years and earn the program's second berth in the NCAA Tournament. They lost to California in the first round at Columbus, Ohio.
The 2009 accolades included a 25-match win streak, the longest in school history, and the highest RPI for Lipscomb at 34, led to Rosenthal earning 2009 A-Sun Coach of the Year honors. They were 28-4 overall.
Lipscomb also picked up its first All-America honors in program history as Alex Kelly and Jake Pease were named honorable mention All-America by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA).
The 2008 team finished second in the A-Sun with a 17-3 record, 21-11 overall.
In 2007 Rosenthal directed Lipscomb volleyball to its first ever A-Sun Conference Tournament Championship, their first ever berth in the NCAA Tournament and their first overall winning season in the NCAA era. They finished 20-12 overall, 7-4 in the conference. They faced Dayton on its home court in the NCAA Regional losing 3-0. The 2007 team was the first to win 20 games in a season.
Rosenthal works hard to recruit players who possess a passion, not only for volleyball, but for life as well. Whether it's on the court, in the classroom or out in the community the players have to be willing to put forth the effort to succeed on a daily basis.
"I want to see that passion each and every day," Rosenthal said. "That is the hardest part of what I ask for from my players. I expect their best and by that I mean effort, whether it is on the court, in the classroom, traveling with the team or performing community service."
"Practices are tough, both mentally and physically. I want our players to be challenged because when the official blows the whistle to start a match it is the player, not the coach, who makes the difference."
The statistics posted by Lipscomb volleyball as a team and as individual players have been increasingly impressive each season. But Rosenthal thinks the game of volleyball is about more than the numbers.
“If you want to know about our program come to one of our matches and see and see the alumni players who are always there. This is a very young program, but the young alumni group is very committed to this being their home.
"As a team, whether we win or lose, the one thing I ask is that we give maximum effort. The difficult challenge is making that same team go further than they have ever gone on a daily basis."
After spending two seasons as a graduate assistant coach at Lipscomb, Rosenthal became one of the youngest head coaches in NCAA Division I at the age of 25. He took over a program that had never won more than four matches in a season and immediately grasped the challenges facing him.
"We have built this program from the ground up," Rosenthal said. "And we have done it the right way. Doing things the right way makes players want to be a part of your program. My biggest concern is building this program into one that will continue to be a success over a long period of time."
"Something that stands out for me is the drive and determination of each one of our players to not only make her mark, but to be part of something bigger than just themselves," Rosenthal said. "I feel it is crucial at this level that the players realize they are not just joining a team, but they are joining a family."
At the end of the 2013 spring semester the team, along with Rosenthal, director of sales and marketing Garner Goode, director of institutional research Matt Rehbein and assistant women's soccer coach Shannon O’Brien went to Brazil for an 11-day mission trip.
During the school year the Lipscomb volleyball is active in a number of activities to help those in need.
Rosenthal's 22 years of volleyball experience spans the country allowing him the ability to draw from many different forums.
Born in Burbank, California, Rosenthal got his first taste of the sport of volleyball on the West Coast. When his family moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he spearheaded a drive to add volleyball to the varsity programs at his high school.
His West Coast roots led him back to the “Golden State” for college where he continued his love for the game by playing club volleyball at Pepperdine. Rosenthal went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, before earning a Master of Business Administration degree from Lipscomb.
Rosenthal and his wife, Kate, live in Nashville. They have a daughter, Jake, and a son, Jack.
Even though Rosenthal has lived in several parts of the United States, he counts Lipscomb and Nashville as home.
“I think Lipscomb is a very special place,” Rosenthal said. “We are doing unbelievable things on the court. But we are doing equally as unbelievable things off the court.
“We are winning. We are getting good grades. We are doing things in the community. We are serving the mission of the University.”