The new will meet the old this fall as the Butler volleyball team prepares for another season on the court.
The new is the fresh competition the Bulldogs will face in their first season as a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The old are the four starters returning to the team—junior middle blockers Maggie Harbison and Claire Randich and sophomore outside hitters Kelly Kyle and Belle Obert.
Also returning are sophomores Jadyn Yarling and Brooke Ruffolo, who will share time at the libero position.
Coach Sharon Clark said sophomore middle blocker Erica Stahl, a transfer from Cincinnati, is a player to watch this season for the Bulldogs.
Clark also said she expects the team’s captains, senior outside hitter Rachel Barber and junior setter Morgan Peterson, to rise into key leadership positions.
Peterson, a transfer from Middle Tennessee State, will fill the role of setter for Butler.
Members of the team and coaching staff said they are excited by the new challenges and opportunities they will face in the A-10.
Players said they are eagerly anticipating traveling to new locations and facing both new teams and previously non-conference opponents within the A-10.
Butler was ranked seventh in the A-10 preseason coaches’ poll following last season’s campaign, which saw the Bulldogs go 16-14 overall and 11-5 in Horizon League play.
Defending A-10 Conference champion Dayton was unanimously selected as this year’s preseason favorite to win the conference. Xavier was picked to finish second.
The Midwest contingent of A-10 teams—specifically Dayton, Xavier and Saint Louis—are teams that players and coaches said they are most excited to play.
“Those [matches] have a little more meaning for us personally as we have played those teams in the past,” Clark said. “Because of their location and membership in the A-10, they are built-in rivalry games for us.”
Despite the new conference, Clark said the team’s expectations are the same as they have always been.
“We have been working hard to be the best team we can be this preseason in order for us to play our best,” Clark said.
Clark said she places an emphasis on focusing on each match individually. The team’s goal to win the conference remains the same despite new competition.
The team has been busy in its preparation for the upcoming season and, with a short turnaround, has wasted no time in scouting its new competition.
Coaches assigned each player an A-10 team to scout and introduce to the rest of the Bulldogs, focusing on everything from style of play and last season’s results to school locations and mascots.
Ruffolo said she feels Butler has an advantage because some A-10 schools have not faced Butler in the past.
“My personal goal for this season is just to wow everyone,” Ruffolo said. “I don’t think teams expect a lot out of us, and we want to prove them wrong.”
The Bulldogs have their first chance to do so this Friday at the DePaul Invitational, with matches against Indiana State, Eastern Illinois and host DePaul.
The team will play its first home match on Sept. 7 against Western Illinois as it hosts the annual Butler Classic.