Lester unable to play due to injury, Butler’s eight-game win streak was snapped Friday by Green Bay.
The Phoenix (11-18, 7-8 HL) defeated the Bulldogs (17-9, 11-3 HL) 3-1.
The loss was the team’s first Horizon League loss in Hinkle Fieldhouse in nearly two years.
Butler dropped to second in the conference standings the next day when Milwaukee beat the Bulldogs, 3-1, allowing the Panthers (19-8, 14-1 HL) to clinch the Horizon League regular season title.
The Bulldogs struggled offensively in both games, hitting .150 over both games and committing 53 errors. Butler was out-hit by its opponents in seven out of eight sets.
“We dug ourselves into some holes,” sophomore setter Gina Vera said. “This time it was different from earlier [this season].
“We just couldn’t dig our way out.”
The Bulldogs could not match Green Bay’s energy in the first set. The Phoenix committed just one error while winning the first set, 25- 22.
“We looked completely out of sync,” head coach Sharon Clark said. “On paper, outside of our errors, we played right with them.”
Butler bounced back in the second set, evening the match at one game apiece with a 25-23 win. Despite having three players with double digit kills, the Bulldogs could not stop Green Bay’s attack and lost the final two sets, 25- 19 and 25-23, losing the match 3-1.
The loss not only broke the team’s eight-game win streak, but dropped the Bulldogs out of first place in the Horizon League standings.
However, with a win the next day against the Panthers, Butler had the chance to regain the conference lead.
“We had a team meeting Saturday afternoon before the game to evaluate everything and give us some focus because we could still have won home-court advantage,” Vera said.
Saturday the Bulldogs hosted Milwaukee for their Samaritan Feet Rally Night.
Before the game, Clark was honored for recently becoming Butler’s all-time coaching wins leader. After defeating Loyola two weekends ago for her 170th win, Clark passed former Butler coach Sharon Dingman to capture the honor.
“It was a little bit of a surprise because I didn’t know they were doing it,” Clark said. “It says a lot about our program that we’re able to accomplish something like this.”
Clark will have to wait until this weekend for her next win, as Milwaukee attacked the Bulldogs early and often, winning the match, 3-1.
Butler won the first set, 25-23, but after that the Panthers began to hit their stride. Milwaukee recorded 96 digs, 29 more than Butler and had 10 team blocks to the Bulldogs’ seven.
“Milwaukee came and they came ready to play,” Clark said. “They had more digs than they had had all year.”
With Butler unable to get the ball down on the Panther court, Milwaukee won the last three sets 25-18, 25-21 and 25-19.
With the win, Milwaukee clinched the top seed for the Horizon League tournament and will host the tournament on their home court.
Butler can still capture the second seed in the tournament with a win over Cleveland State this weekend.
The top two seeds in the tournament receive a first round bye, which the Bulldogs could use to help some of their injured players recover.
“The bye is huge with our injury situation,” Clark said. “We need as much rest this weekend and in the tournament as we can get.”