Bulldogs rebound after early struggles

Another weekend, another road trip.

Traveling has encapsulated the season so far for the Butler women’s volleyball team. Over the weekend, the Bulldogs (2-6) took their talents to Portland, Oregon.

There they participated in the Portland Classic, losing three matches but also grabbing their first win of the young season.

Butler lost its first match in the Classic to host Portland 3-1 on Thursday, dropping the Bulldogs to 0-4 on the season.

Against the Pilots (2-2), Butler opened the match by winning the first set 25-20 before falling in the next three.

Freshman outside hitter Kelly Kyle led the team with 13 kills and had personal bests in digs and blocks, with 15 and four, respectively.

The Bulldogs were right back at it on Friday, beginning the day with a match against Big 12 member Texas A&M.

Butler struggled to get anything going against the Aggies (5-0). The Bulldogs scored 20 points just once in the match and fell 3-0.

“[Texas A&M] is a really strong serving team, ” freshman defensive specialist Brooke Ruffolo said.  “We had a lot of leadership on the court, and we were able to stick with them [the Aggies] most of the game.”

Kyle again led the Bulldogs with 10 kills, and sophomore Maggie Harbison led all players with four blocks.

The breakthrough for the Bulldogs came in the second game of Friday’s double-dip when Butler swept Nevada 3-0.

The Bulldogs opened the match with a 25-21 set victory over the Wolf Pack (0-5) and then proceeded to grab the final two sets in nail-biting fashion, 29-27 and 27-25.

“We had some good late game pushes, and we were able to finish those games,” Kyle said.  “We were able to close in three [games], which is great because we got our first win. “

Butler’s final match in the Classic was Saturday versus Pac-12 member Washington State.

After losing the first two sets, the Bulldogs picked up the third set 25-23.  The Cougars (5-1) proved to be too strong, however, as they took the deciding set 26-24.

Kyle had another strong match, recording 12 kills and 10 digs, while Ruffolo led Butler with 19 digs.

Off the court, senior outside hitter Maureen Bamiro provided a bright spot for the Bulldogs when she was named to the all-tournament team at the Classic.  Bamiro averaged 2.43 kills per set and totaled 16 blocks over four matches, including an impressive nine blocks against Washington State.

“She [Bamiro] provides a ton of leadership,” Kyle said. “She was great at the net and her ability to be up in the air and put balls away is just phenomenal.”

Butler returned home Tuesday to play host to Chicago State, winning 3-0.

Butler captured the first two sets handily, 25-11 and 25-10, in part due to sound passing by junior setter Gina Vera.

Vera finished with a match-high 38 assists, more than doubling Chicago State’s leading setter Angelica Brewer’s 14.

The Cougars (1-8) fought back in the third set, losing narrowly 25-20.

Kyle led the Bulldogs with 15 kills, followed by Bamiro with eight.

Ruffolo led all players with 16 digs.

Butler will compete in another weekend invitational starting Friday, only this time inside the friendly confines of Hinkle Fieldhouse.

The Bulldogs will host Elon, Austin Peay and Central Michigan for the Butler Invitational.

Butler’s opening match will be against the Elon Phoenix (6-2).

After winning its first five matches, Elon has lost two of its last three.

The Austin Peay Governors (2-5) ended a four-match losing streak Saturday with a win over East Tennessee State.

Central Michigan will enter the tournament with a 2-3 record.

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