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Opinion,  Sports

Volleyball season recap: what to expect next year

The 2022 Lipscomb volleyball season has come to an end after a tight loss to the Liberty Flames in the semifinal of the ASUN Tournament on November 18th. 

The match could not have been closer, with the game going the distance to a fifth set. Liberty finished the game off with a kill from former Bison Kamryn Bacus, with the final score of the fifth set being 15 to 13. 

This Bisons squad was always one who had plenty of potential to grab a very high seed in the tournament, but they found themselves in the middle of the ASUN pack in the fourth spot. What exactly led Lipscomb to this position?

Head coach Brandon Rosenthal is notorious for creating a grueling non-conference schedule. Rosenthal packed this year’s slate with five Power Five opponents, and a few other games that featured mid-major teams who received votes in the Top 25 rankings. 

With this in mind, Lipscomb was not very successful before conference play began. Stanford, Kansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi State and Louisville were some of the difficult tasks on the calendar in August and September. But because of the way Rosenthal created his schedule, this helped set up his players for success when ASUN matches rolled around. 

The Bisons plowed their way through conference play and ended up with a solid record of 12-4 in the ASUN. Their only four losses were mostly respectable ones, coming against Liberty, Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville State and Jacksonville, who was the biggest surprise in the loss column for Lipscomb. 

The ASUN decided on Lipscomb as a host site this year for the entire tournament. This meant that every game, including the championship game, was held in Allen Arena, rather than the highest seed being the host site. 

Lipscomb headed into the postseason as the number four seed in the conference tournament, which matched them up against number five Central Arkansas in the quarterfinal. The Bisons swept the Sugar Bears in three sets on November 17th, which secured their spot in the semifinal the next day.

The Bisons battled it out to the very end against the Liberty Flames, with the winner punching their ticket to the conference championship the very next game. In a thrilling match, Lipscomb fell short and was ultimately heartbroken after losing in the closest way possible in the fifth set, 15-13. 

Liberty went on to take on Florida Gulf Coast in the championship. The Eagles of FGCU came out on top and swept the Flames three sets to none. 

Despite the result not being what Lipscomb may have wanted, this talented team has plenty to look forward to next season. As a fan of the Purple and Gold, what should you know? 

Lipscomb fights through adversity 

The Bisons had to fight through many injuries this season. For large portions of the season, Lipscomb was without lots of talent. They were shorthanded and missed the presence of junior middle blocker Meg Mersman, senior setter Ashleigh Albert, freshman right-side hitter Jada DiVita and freshman outside hitter Courtney Jones. Even with all of the missing starpower, they had lots of success and made it very far, showing promise for seasons to come when they’ll stay healthier.

Four fabulous freshman

It’s not often that freshmen can come in and dominate during their first year of college, but Lipscomb was fortunate enough to have four exceptions. Jones, setter Sophia Hudepohl, and blocker Berkley Mischler found themselves on the All-Freshman team in the ASUN Conference, and it’s hard to argue Jada DiVita wouldn’t have made it as well had she stayed healthy. 

The four freshmen combined for 301 sets played, 493 kills and 107 blocks. Hudepohl, the only setter of the four, grabbed 1080 assists. 

Plenty of returning players

This is a Bisons team that only has three seniors this season, which includes Logan Gish, Kailee Bass and Grey Breen. If the rest of the team chooses to come back, they would have thirteen of the sixteen girls on this year’s roster. Lipscomb has already announced they have filled the void of two spots with the signings of two incoming freshmen. An outside hitter, Ninah Miranda will join the squad, along with Brooklyn Fuchs, a middle blocker.

As 2023 approaches, excitement is warranted for Bisons volleyball fans. Lipscomb has proven they can fight and win, even without some of their more experienced players.

They have loads of young talent and will only get better with age. The volleyball program has a bright future with Brandon Rosenthal leading the way and a solid 2022 campaign to build on.