With four different Bulldogs tallying double digit kills, Butler’s team effort was just enough to beat Wright State in five sets on the road last Friday.
The Bulldogs’ (15-7, 10-1 HL) victory ran their winning streak up to six games. After a shaky start to the season, Butler is 11-1 in its last 12 matches.
“I think a huge part of our team’s success has been to just take it one game at a time,” senior outside hitter Susan Lester said. “We always talk about how the game we are about to play is the most important game.”
Butler’s strong play has vaulted them to the top of the Horizon League standings. Butler is tied with Milwaukee (14-8, 10-1 HL) in first, even though it defeated the Panthers earlier in the year.
“The League is so competitive,” Butler head coach Sharon Clark said. “It’s a huge accomplishment for us to be 10-1. I’ve got to give a ton of credit to the team; they’ve been so mentally tough. But we still have so far to go. We just try to stay focused on one game at a time.”
Butler headed into Friday’s road match-up against the Raiders (8-16, 3-8 HL), needing a win to remain in first place.
Pumped up and prepared, the Bulldogs came out strong, starting the matching by hitting .368 in the first set and smacking down 18 kills en route to a 25-22 first-set win.
After winning set two 25-19, the Bulldogs were in control of the match.
But the Raiders rallied during the next two sets.
Wright State gained composure in sets three and four and committed only five errors in each compared to the 10 errors they committed in set two.
Both sets went down to the wire, but the Raiders were able to get the points that mattered, winning set three, 25-23, and set four, 26-24, to even the match and force a deciding fifth set.
“When you have [a close game], I always think of Al Pacino, in ‘Any Given Sunday,’ with his locker room speech. ‘It’s a game of inches!’” Clark said. “It just comes down to who can make that great play. Nobody ever really has momentum.”
After Wright State made a comeback in sets three and four, it was Butler’s turn to show what they were made of.
In the fifth set, Clark said senior libero Katie Daprile put the game on her back and took over.
With Daprile’s defense keeping the ball in play, Butler came back from a 10-6 deficit before matching the Raiders point-for-point.
Still, the Bulldogs found themselves facing a Wright State match point, at 16-15.
But Butler stayed calm and won the next point to tie the game at 16 before an ace from freshman opposite Maggie Harbison gave the Bulldogs a match point of their own.
Senior middle Maureen Bamiro sealed the victory with a kill, finishing off the set 18-16 and the match 3-2.
“It is important [late in the set] to try and keep your composure so that you do not hesitate on that point,” Lester said. “Just do what has been working that set.”
The victory keeps the Bulldogs’ six-match winning streak alive as they head to Chicago this weekend for a non-conference match with Chicago State on Friday before playing UIC Saturday.
Daprile’s defense throughout the match was pivotal. Her 37 digs in the match extends her Butler career record to 398 and places her 96 digs behind the Horizon League career digs record, currently held by Milwaukee’s Lauren Felsing (2006-09).
With only five Horizon League matches remaining-—four of which will be played at Hinkle Fieldhouse—Butler controls its own conference destiny.