Overtime: Fall sports validate move

Published Nov. 14, 2012

Based solely on how Butler’s athletic teams have performed in the fall months, I can say I was wrong.

I was wrong when I projected struggles for many of Butler’s squads if the university made the move from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 Conference.

In the March 28 issue of The Butler Collegian, I wrote, “The effect of moving to a bigger conference could be troublesome to Butler’s other athletic teams.”

This assessment did not include the men’s basketball team, which I believed would be most positively affected by the move.

It also did not include the football and women’s golf teams, neither of which are in the A-10.

It is far too early to assess the effects of the conference switch on Butler athletics as a whole.

However, Butler’s athletic teams with fall seasons stepped up to the plate and proved me wrong.

Athletes on these teams ensured their squads would not suffer from a move to a larger, more prominent conference.

In fact, those athletes allowed Butler to thrive in its first several months as an A-10 school.

The volleyball team earned a berth in the A-10 tournament yesterday, capping a furious season-ending comeback to snatch the No. 6 seed in the six-team event.

The Bulldogs held a 2-7 conference mark following a 3-1 loss to tournament No. 1 seed Dayton on Oct. 21.

The team didn’t use moving to a tougher conference as an excuse, though.

Instead, the Bulldogs reeled off five consecutive victories. They won  15 of 16 sets in those matches. And they defeated three teams with better conference marks at match-time.

Butler was the No. 3 seed in last season’s Horizon League tournament, but the Bulldogs achieved a big goal in making the A-10 tournament on their first go-round.

Butler athletics achieved what was likely another goal when both of its cross country teams captured A-10 championships last month.

The men’s team had won 14 consecutive Horizon League crowns, while the women had taken four straight league championships prior to the jump.

Neither team seemed to break a sweat while winning their respective A-10 titles in 2012.

Additionally, the Butler women earned its first at-large bid to the NCAA national meet since 2005 by placing fourth in their regional meet last weekend.

There’s no way to no for sure if the competition in the A-10 meet pushed team members to perform better later in the postseason, but it probably didn’t hurt.

The women’s soccer team also had a strong campaign, losing a single game in regular-season A-10 play en route to a No. 4 seed in its conference tournament.

Breakout freshman midfielder Sophie Maccagnone and her teammates seemed unafraid of other A-10 teams. That included 2011 conference champion Dayton, a team the Bulldogs beat during the regular season.

Butler lost a close 1-0 decision to eventual conference champ La Salle after defeating St. Bonaventure in its first match of the tournament.

And even though the men’s soccer team was unable to earn a spot in its eight-team conference tournament, the Bulldogs were in the hunt until their final game and finished tied for ninth place.

Butler’s tennis teams, though not in their conference seasons until spring, may have already benefitted from the move, too.

The men’s team was able to draw two freshmen from overseas, while the Butler women added a freshman from overseas as well.

It would be fair to speculate that those new Bulldogs were intrigued by the opportunity to play in a more prominent conference than Butler was formerly in.

Butler’s fall athletic teams  have helped make the school’s transition to the A-10 seamless and quickly beneficial with their successes.

I applaud team members for not backing down in the face of tougher competition.

Hopefully, Butler’s winter and spring squads will be able to continue this trend in the coming months.

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