Nashville’s Lipscomb, Belmont ready for first-round NCAA volleyball action

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Belmont coach Tony Howell

Music City teams are ready to make some noise in the 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship. Two Nashville-based schools — Lipscomb University and Belmont University — earned spots in the 64-team bracket and will look to shake things up in first round NCAA action on Friday, Dec. 4.

Lipscomb (23-8) punched its postseason ticket by winning the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship and is making its second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

The Bisons will travel across the country to face No. 14 seed UCLA (23-7) at 10 p.m. Central Friday, and they are not shying away from the challenge. Santa Clara and Michigan will tangle in the first match in UCLA’s John Wooden Center.

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Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal

“I said if you are going to send us somewhere let us travel far away,” Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “You can’t get much farther away than Los Angeles. This is an opportunity for Lipscomb to put its name on the map a little more.”

The Bisons, who earned an at-large bid in 2014, are ranked No. 50 in the latest RPI, and will face UCLA for the first time in school history.

The Bisons are led by senior right side Brittnay Estes — the A-Sun Player of the Year and the league tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Estes paces Lipscomb with 3.19 kills and 2.31 digs per set.

Lipscomb, a private liberal arts university with a 4,000-person enrollment, is making its sixth NCAA appearance in program history. The Bisons also are looking for their first-ever NCAA Tournament victory. 

“We are going to have to go out there and find ways to defend and find ways to score,” Rosenthal said. “I think we have done that all year. We have had a lot of success with some of the taller teams. This is a challenge we have in front of us and this is an exciting one.”

Belmont (17-14), winner of the Ohio Valley Conference Championship, will drive three hours north on I-65 to take on No. 15 seed Louisville (24-6) at 6 p.m. Central Friday at Cardinal Arena. Southern Illinois and Illinois will meet in the Louisville region’s first match.

The Bruins are making their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance and second in the past four years. Belmont lost its last three regular-season matches before rallying to win three straight in the league tournament, including a 3-1 victory over top-seeded Murray State.

Belmont coach Tony Howell
Belmont coach Tony Howell

“The girls have the confidence to know they can play extremely well,” said Belmont coach Tony Howell. “They can read well, they can play defense and they can play at a high level. If they can maintain that and keep up the momentum going into the Louisville match like they finished in the (OVC) tournament, that would be great.”

Belmont, a private liberal arts school with about 7,200 students, also faced Louisville in its last trip to the NCAA postseason in 2012, losing to the Cardinals 3-1. Like Lipscomb, the Bruins are also seeking their first-ever NCAA Tournament victory.

“We played Belmont in the tournament a couple of years ago,” said Louisville head coach Anne Kordes. “They are a scrappy team that plays great defense. They run a quick offense. We are not looking past them at all.”

Sophomore Arianna Person Belmont, the OVC Tournament Most Valuable Player, leads Belmont with 3.99 kills and 0.39 aces per set.

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