The Lipscomb women’s volleyball team chooses to ignore the elephant in the room.
As a result, it just keeps growing and growing and growing. That’s great news for the Bisons but bad news for the rest of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Heading into this weekend’s home conference matches against USC Upstate and East Tennessee State, Lipscomb rides a 37-match regular-season conference win streak. The string of victories dates back to 2008. Including the postseason, the Bisons have won 43 straight against A-Sun opponents.
As far as regular-season conference winning streaks go, only Northern Iowa — with 41 straight in the Missouri Valley Conference — has a longer streak.
“It’s funny, we really don’t ever talk about it. I don’t ever think about it,” ninth-year coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “I think part of what we have going right now is that expectation that we want to win every match. It is hard to do. It is easy to talk about it. ... I’m real thankful to be a part of this program. It makes winning very enjoyable. But it is one of those things where you start to realize how hard it is to actually do.”
The Bisons (7-6, 2-0 A-Sun) are the two-time defending conference champs but they have had to replace five seniors, including the last two conference players of the year: Alex Kelly and Jake Pease. The latter is now an assistant coach for Rosenthal.
The start to the 2011 campaign was bumpy with six losses (all against non-conference competition) in the first eight matches. Entering Tuesday’s non-conference match at Evansville, though, Lipscomb had won five straight.
Rosenthal credits much of the success to the fact that a young team has started to gel. Lipscomb’s roster includes five freshmen — three who start — and four sophomores.
“One of the things we try to instill in our girls is that tradition, that history of hard work and coming in and working for what we want,” Rosenthal said. “In a couple of our matches, it really just comes down to how bad do you want it? Our girls understand that expectations no matter who they are or what year it is going to be are high. Is that fair? No, it is probably not, especially to this freshman group. At the same time, they knew exactly what they were getting into, and I would imagine that some of them chose to come here because of those high expectations.”
They have leaned on upperclassman leaders to guide them through the rough start. Outside hitter Kaycee Green, a Cookeville native, leads the team with 177 kills. Senior middle blocker/libero Katie Rose is close with 129 kills and a team-high 103 digs. Setter Abby Fay, a Kansas State grad who is getting her masters in business administration, leads the team with 320 assists.
“I think some of the early losses, they were real close losses, some of it we had to go through in order to get to this point,” Rosenthal said. “I was never nervous about it. I just understood we were going to have to learn to play with each other and get over that hump. The past couple years, we have had a real senior-laden team. Now, I don’t want to say we are rebuilding ... we just have to go about things a little bit differently and be a little more patient.”
• MTSU wins: Last weekend couldn’t have gone much better for the Middle Tennessee State men’s golf team.
The Blue Raiders not only won the Mason Rudolph Championship at Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin for the second time in three years. They also placed four golfers in the top 25.
The victory came two weeks after they finished 11th in the season-opening Carpet Capital Collegiate in Georgia.
"I am so proud of the way we bounced back after getting embarrassed at the Carpet Capital Collegiate,” MTSU coach Whit Turnbow said.
Senior Hunter Green finished eight-under during the three-day Mason Rudolph event and claimed the third individual title of his career.
“I hit it really well all week,” said Green, a native of Evensville, Tenn. “I didn’t three-putt all week and I made some really good putts so that took a lot of pressure off of me for the rest of [Sunday].”
Paul Sansom placed eighth, Brett Patterson tied for ninth and Lucas Armstrong tied for 22nd. On Monday, the Blue Raiders were named the national team of the week and Green earned national player of the week honors by Golfweek.com.
• Coaches clinic: Vanderbilt men’s basketball coach Kevin Stallings and his staff will host their second annual Vanderbilt Coaches Clinic on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Memorial Gymnasium.
The clinic will focus on building a jump shot, special situations and individual workouts. There will also be a Q&A session with Stallings at the end of the clinic. Cost is $40 per person or $100 for a staff of three or more. Coaches can sign up the day of the clinic or go to vucommodores.com to register and for more information.
• Top honor: Former Middle Tennessee State standout Bryce Brentz was named the Boston Red Sox’s 2011 Minor League Offensive Co-Player of the Year.
Brentz, a native of Knoxville, spent the season with Class A teams Greenville (N.C.) Drive and Salem (Mass.) Red Sox. He led all minor leaguers in Boston’s farm system with a .306 batting average and 94 RBIs and ranked second in home runs (30). He also set a Greenville record by starting the season with a 36-game on-base streak. He also was named to Carolina League Postseason All-Star Team earlier this month.
Brentz, a right fielder, played for the Blue Raiders from 2008-10 and was a two-time All-American. The 2009 Sun Belt Player of the Year owns seven different school records.