After running its winning streak to five matches with a 3-0 win over the UIC Flames on Saturday, the Butler volleyball team ended its run with a 3-0 loss while visiting the Cleveland State Vikings last night.
The Bulldogs’ (9-7, 4-1 HL) matchup against the Vikings (13-1, 4-1 HL) was the start of a tough stretch for the Bulldogs ,who face three more Horizon League opponents in the next five days.
“We’ve all been resting a lot,” freshman middle blocker Claire Randich said. “We have really had to mentally prepare for this [road trip].”
Butler could not find an answer for Cleveland State’s powerful attack last night.
The Bulldogs allowed the Vikings 47 team kills in three sets and gave up 18 kills in the second set.
Cleveland State did not play a particularly clean game, giving up 22 errors, but was able to win points late in the game.
Until the final set, Butler was never far behind the Vinkings, but the Bulldogs could not stop the Viking hitter combo of sophomore Kara Koch and junior Lindsey Griffith, who had 14 and 12 kills respectively.
After Cleveland State grabbed momentum with its 25-23 first-set win, the Vikings kept just enough of a lead to keep Butler from getting back into the match.
Cleveland State won the second set 25-21 and then captured the match with a 25-19 win in the third.
Against the Flames (8-8, 3-3 HL), the Bulldogs executed a smothering team defense that forced 26 errors in three sets.
At home against UIC on Saturday, the Bulldogs were able to find those game-clinching points that eluded them in Tuesday’s match.
“We’re just trying to fight and be competitive,” head coach Sharon Clark said. “We’re taking it one game at a time.
“On the road, you battle fatigue and tough crowds, but I think we’re ready for it.”
Butler played as one unit on defense, picking up 10 blocks, none of which were solo blocks.
The Bulldogs spread out their 57 digs among six different players.
Freshman Maggie Harbison, sophomore Gina Vera and senior Katie Daprile were all in double digits for digs with 14, 13 and 13 respectively.
The team play carried over to the offensive side of the net.
Although the Bulldogs had 37 team kills, only one player, senior Susan Lester, had double digits in kills.
UIC started the match off with strong serving building up an 11-7 lead over the Bulldogs, but Butler responded with a 9-2 run and extinguished the Flames in the first set 25-20.
“Being down [in the first set], we didn’t let it bother us,” Randich said. “It was our defense that turned things around and got us the momentum.”
Butler and UIC shared leads in the second set, but neither team could pull away.
Down 25-24 and facing a set point for the Flames, Butler rallied to win three consecutive points and sealed the set 27-25 on a kill from Lester.
“That second set was huge,” Randich said. “It set the tone for the rest of the set. In that third set we thought ‘we want to put this match away.’”
In the third set the Bulldogs kept on the defensive pressure and were able to force UIC outside of their comfort zone.
After taking a 5-2 advantage behind a string of strong serves from Lester, Butler never relinquished its lead en route to a 25-22 win. The set locked up the match 3-0 for the Bulldogs.
Clark said she was glad to have the team on a winning streak heading into the road trip.
“Its always good to have momentum,” Clark said. “These next four games are going to be a tough test, but we’ve been preparing for it all season.”
The Bulldogs will look to regain some of that momentum as they finish up their road trip with a match tonight against Youngstown State and two more matches this weekend at Milwaukee and Green Bay.