Butler volleyball’s dream season ended in a flash last Friday in Dayton, Ohio.
The Bulldogs (21-10, 14-3 HL) could never maintain momentum against the Flyers and fell in straight sets 25-17, 25-23, 25-11. The win allowed Dayton (28-3) to move on in the NCAA tournament and face Ohio State for a shot at advancing to the Sweet 16.
The trip to Dayton marked the second NCAA tournament appearance for the Bulldogs’ volleyball team.
The loss abruptly ended one of the best seasons in Butler volleyball history.
“It wasn’t our best [match],” head coach Sharon Clark said. “It still doesn’t make me any less proud of the team.”
Senior Jessie Wolfe led the Butler attack with 11 kills and junior Maureen Bamiro added five.
Sophomore Gina Vera closed out a strong season with 23 assists, while Katie Daprille had 17 digs for the Bulldogs.
Redshirt senior Lindsay Fletemier had 14 kills for the Flyers, while fellow senior Amanda Cowdrey finished close behind with 11 kills. Redshirt senior Jessica Yanz posted 36 assists and two service aces.
The Bulldogs struggled out of the gate, falling behind by as many as 11 points in the opening set.
With the score sitting at 21-11, Butler began mounting a late comeback, getting as close as 23-16. It wasn’t enough to take down the Atlantic 10 champions, as Dayton was victorious by a 25-17 margin.
“Dayton is a tough team,” freshman Claire Randich said. “They have some weapons we’ve never seen before.
“We tried to stop them, but they were just the better team.”
The Bulldogs struggled with their serving in the first set, committing three service errors. The Flyers, on the other hand, had two service aces, each of which fueled an energetic home crowd.
“The crowd affected us a little, but it didn’t control us,” Randich said. “We stayed calm throughout the match and didn’t let being down get at us.”
The second set started off on the same note for Butler. Dayton took the first four points of the set and eventually led by a score of 8-3. The Flyers led by six points at eight different times in the set.
Facing a 20-15 deficit, Butler took the next two points off a timeout to make the set close. The Bulldogs then took five consecutive points with the Flyers looking for their set point, bringing the score to 24-23. However, Dayton was able to close out the set, 25-23, and head into the locker room up two sets to none.
“The team came in confident and stayed strong,” Bamiro said. “The third game was shaky, but we weren’t going down without a fight.”
The third set was rough for Butler, as the Bulldogs again put themselves in a hole early. Dayton scored 12 of the first 14, points in the set.
Dayton closed out the set and match without much issue, taking the final set by a score of 25-11.
Despite the loss, the Bulldogs collected a conference championship and will be returning eight letter winners next season after one of the most successful seasons in Butler history.
“We’ve had a lot of accomplishments that other teams can’t say they’ve had,” Bamiro said. “We want to come back stronger next year and win the [conference] championship again.”
Clark also had a positive outlook on the team’s season and is looking forward to the 2011 campaign.
“The seniors have done a good job of getting us to where we were in 2004,” Clark said. “We had four freshmen out there [against Dayton] at one point, so this was a good experience for them.
“This is a good platform for next year.”