Volleyball: Team earns last tournament spot

The Butler volleyball team is making its first appearance in the Atlantic 10 conference tournament.

The Bulldogs (17-11, 7-7) defeated Saint Louis (10-19, 4-10) three sets to none Saturday night.

The Butler win, combined with a Duquesne victory over George Washington, put the team in sixth place in the A-10. It also gave the Bulldogs the last spot in the post-season tournament.

“I am super happy for my players” coach Sharon Clark said. “They have worked hard all season long, they really put it together and we are peaking at the right time, so I’m thrilled.”

Butler will play Virginia Commonwealth (24-5, 10-4) Friday in the first round of the tournament, hosted by Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh. The Rams swept the Bulldogs in their last meeting in mid-October.

The win against Saint Louis was the Bulldogs’ fifth straight overall, and Butler has won all but one set during its run. Clark said the team will be confident heading into the conference tournament.

“We’re going to get back to work and do the same things we’ve been doing,” Clark said. “Every one of those games is giving us momentum going into the conference tournament.

“We’re in it to win it, and we are going in wanting to win it all.”

The first set against the Billikens last Saturday was evenly-matched in the beginning, with the Billikens holding a small lead. Butler recorded a three-point run to take a 13-12 lead and force a SLU timeout.

Butler was up 19-15 and appeared to be in control until the Billikens came back to tie the set at 21. Down 23-22, Butler was able to win two straight points to make it set point.

Saint Louis fought off two set points, but junior Claire Randich was able to put away the first set on the Bulldog’s third set point.

Butler dominated the beginning of the second set as it jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead.

The Bulldogs continued their dominance out of a timeout, taking five of the next seven points to force another Billikens’ timeout. Following the break, Butler went on another four-point run and would dominate the rest of the set, winning 25-14 to take a 2-0 lead.

Butler led in the early stages of the third set, but Saint Louis was able to pull within one. The Bulldogs would not give up, and they took four of the five next points to take a 14-10 lead.

Butler dominated the rest of the set, taking 11 of 17 points to complete the sweep and earn themselves the conference tournament berth.

“I think that we have a confidence right now that we are rolling off of, and working in practice every single day, and those things are starting to pay off for us,” Clark said.

Leading the Bulldogs was senior Rachel Barber, who had 14 kills. Sophomore Erica Stahl had five blocks, and sophomore Brooke Ruffolo had 21 digs.

The match was the last of Barber’s college career. She is the only senior on the team.

The match Friday against VCU is set to begin at 4:30 p.m.

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