The Lipscomb Lady Bisons finished the preconference schedule with four wins, the most in the history of the program to start a season.
But those wins, coupled with four losses for a .500 record, don’t mean very much now. Friday night the Lady Bisons will start Atlantic Sun Conference play when Kennesaw State, last year’s conference champion and the preseason favorite for this season, visits the Lipscomb Soccer Complex at 5 p.m.
“I don’t mind playing them first because they are the team everyone is always chasing,” Ireland said. “They are picked to win the championship again this year. They have won it two of the last three years.
“It will be a good indicator of where we are. They are the program everyone wants to be. They have a great tradition. They have won at every level. They have tremendous talent and great coaching. They have a tremendous facility.”
The Lady Bisons lost 7-0 at Kennesaw State Oct. 9 last season in a game that was over almost before it started.
“They smeared us last year,” Ireland said. “After the first three or four minutes the game was over.
“It is always tough playing in the road, but when you are playing a team like Kennesaw State you can’t give them any help. We came out and didn’t play well and they jumped all over us.”
Kennesaw State, 3-3-1, is 4-1 overall against Lipscomb. Kennesaw State has never lost a conference opener in the Atlantic Sun, posting a 3-0-2 record.
“We’re excited about the challenge with all of the weapons Kennesaw State has offensively,” Ireland said. We have a lot of respect for Kennesaw State. We have always struggled to compete with Kennesaw State. They have just whipped us.
“Player-for-player Kennesaw State is more talented than us in some areas. We have to come in and be disciplined and focused and be as prepared as we can.”
The Lady Bisons have already equaled last season’s victory total. But Ireland is more worried about whether his team is getting better with each game than the wins and losses.
“We told our girls that once we start conference games no one cares if you are 8-0 or 0-8,” Ireland said. “It is good to get some confidence and win some games, but the key is whether or not we are getting better.
“We are not putting everything into Friday night’s game. It is one game. Our whole season is not going to be won or lost based on this game.”
Due to the small number of healthy players he has available Ireland has reduced practices to only twice a week. He has been pleasantly surprised that the level of play on game days has not suffered.
Ireland expects to have a minimum of two and a maximum of three substitutes available.
“Our defenders have played very well, but they will be tested on Friday,” Ireland said. “Overall, it is hard to pick out individual players as standouts because our girls know they have to play 90 minutes.
“They know they have to fight. They can’t come out after 20 minutes because they know there is nobody to replace them. They are coming together as a team more than ever. We have tremendous team chemistry.”
The Lady Bisons face Mercer Sunday at noon.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.