Lipscomb volleyball squad has something to prove in NCAA tourney

Monday, November 30, 2009 at 12:52am

For coach Brandon Rosenthal and the rest of the Lipscomb University volleyball team Sunday was supposed to be a day of answers.

For more than a week since they captured their second Atlantic Sun Conference volleyball tournament title, the Lady Bisons wondered where and who they would play at the start of the NCAA tournament.

They found out all right, and the answers just meant more questions.

“We’re left with a lot of questions — chief among them is, ‘What else could we have done?’” Rosenthal said. “I hate to whine and complain because in any normal year, we’d be happy with whatever we got.”

What they got was a trip to Columbus, Ohio where they will face California, the No. 9 overall seed in the field of 64, in a first-round match, 6 p.m. Friday.

It did not feel like much of a reward for a program that went 28-3 overall, 22-0 (66-6 in sets) in conference play and finished with a 34 RPI, the highest in program history and the highest for any Lipscomb team in any sport during the NCAA Division I era. They finished among the top 20 in the nation in kills (second), assists (fourth), hitting percentage (16th) and digs (17th).

Their non-conference schedule included matches against two teams in this year’s field, Tennessee and Florida International (both losses), as well as one against Western Kentucky (a 3-0 victory), which made the tournament last season.

Based on their RPI, the Lady Bisons would be one of the highest-rated No. 3 seeds at a regional site. Based on their matchup, they are considered the No. 4 seed at their site and one of the bottom 16 teams in the field.

“We did play Tennessee, Florida International and Kansas, and those are very good schools,” Rosenthal said. “When you talk about Cal, you’re talking about a different level. They’re from the Pac 10, and the Pac 10 is the best volleyball conference year-in and year-out.”

Cal (18-10) is one of eight teams from the Pac 10 in the NCAA tournament and one of four to earn a national seed. The Bears finished fourth in the conference but earned their eighth straight bid to the tournament. They have won their first-round match each of the last seven years.

“I understand that it’s part of the process of being a little school, but we dominated our conference – we couldn’t have been any more dominant,” Rosenthal said. “I hate to say it’s us against the world, but I’ve talked with the girls and told them to take the lead on this. A lot of coaches tend to over-hype things, but our players can read between the lines.

“Nothing changes the fact that this season really was something special and we’ll be excited and ready to play on Friday.”