New season, strong start

The Bulldogs celebrate a point against Kent State on Aug. 26 in the Bulldog Brawl. Photo by Andrew Buckley


Butler volleyball welcomes a new era of players and coaches with a 3-0 start to the season, as they turn the page to the next chapter in the team’s story. 

Leading the team into this next chapter is new head-coach Kyle Shondell, who comes from Indiana Tech after leading the men’s team to a 19-10 season this past spring. Shondell is ready to take on the task of leading the Bulldogs into this new chapter and building the program into the success he knows it can be

Shondell has a coaching staff with a considerable amount of volleyball intellect from both the coaching standpoint and player standpoint —  who all already appear to be making a positive impact on the team. 

“My coaching staff is incredible,” Shondell said. “They’re knocking it out of the park right now. The team has gotten to know them really well, and they like them a lot. They connect really, really well with the athletes, and they’ve done a good job of doing their job.” 

The new coaching staff comes after the recent unfolding of conflict within the program, and former coach Sharon Clark’s retirement resulting in the team’s change in leadership. 

The Dawgs are ready to put that story to rest and focus on the future of Butler volleyball. 

“I don’t spend a lot of time looking at the past,” Shondell said. “The people that were returners are just absolute rockstars about maintaining the culture and getting it to where they want it to be. I think they’ve set their own tone, they’ve decided what this brand of Butler volleyball is going to look like.” 

After losing several players, the Bulldogs were on the hunt to find talented additions to help rebuild a strong roster. The Dawgs have seven accomplished first-years on the roster in addition to Abby Maesch, a leading University of Georgia transfer, who arrived to the team in the spring. 

With only six returning players from the 2022 season, the Dawgs took on an additional task of building team chemistry both off and on the court. To help build the chemistry for the season, the Bulldogs embarked on several activities such as golfing at Back 9, pool days, cookouts at redshirt senior Jaymeson Kinley’s apartment and a Family Feud-esque game show. 

The result of building a roster that features more first-years than upperclassmen is a lack of experience on the big stage. Kinley and Maesch both believe that one of the biggest challenges the team will face this year is the young presence. Mentorship from the upperclassmen will be beneficial in helping build success for the younger Bulldogs. 

“I think just giving them confidence at the end of the day is what’s going to help us be successful, making sure they’re not timid, not scared,” Kinley said. “This is a lot for people right out of high school to come play on a college floor, but [our goal is to] just make sure they’re always comfortable and in the right mindset.” 

Kinley — the two-time Big East Libero of the Year – is the lone senior on the team as a redshirt senior who will continue to have an enormous impact on the defensive end after racking up 618 digs last season and ranking first in the conference. Kinley will continue to have a strong mentorship presence on the team as the only player to play over 70 matches with the Bulldogs. 

Maesch pointed out that the seven players who were on campus during the spring practices worked heavily on figuring out what they wanted this season to look like so they could provide examples to the younger players. 

Coach Shondell has seen the mentorship from his upperclassmen players from the start of when the first-years set foot on Butler’s campus. 

“They welcomed them and gave them a role,” Shondell said. “The hardest thing for freshmen sometimes is to come into a situation and not know what their role is and not feel like they belong. We’ve got a group of sophomores, juniors and super duper seniors that welcomed them with open arms. They say, ‘we’re so happy you chose Butler, let’s do something special together.’” 

The chemistry and mentorship the team has done during the offseason paid off as the Bulldogs started their season on the right foot. Butler went undefeated at the Bulldog Brawl going 3-0 with matches against Kent State, Fresno State and UC San Diego to defend their home court. 

During the opening-season tournament, the team faced early adversity specifically against UC San Diego where the Dawgs found themselves down two sets to one and battled back to close out the weekend on a high note. 

Coach Shondell talked about what aspect of the game he is trying to emphasize this season to get the win in game scenarios like that. 

“We’re going to have to be a very, very good serving team and a very, very good defensive team,”  Shondell said. “Serving and defense are going to be kind of our staple. But offensively we’re gonna do some good things all around. We’re gonna do some good things. We’re just going to play really, really hard.” 

One aspect of the game that propelled the Bulldogs to victory last season was the presence of the block, leading the Big East in total blocks (163) and second in average blocks per set (2.40). 

The team lost some of their powerhouse blockers last season in Marisa Guisti and Amina Shackelford, but juniors Destiny Cherry and Grace Boggess have taken on those roles leading the Bulldogs in blocks this past weekend. The two combined for 23 out of the team’s 42 blocks over the duration of the weekend. 

Coach Shondell explained the value of blocking and how it can be a critical aspect of the game for success. 

“Blocking is a huge focus for us,”  Shondell said. “Our defense is a huge component, and we trust our block a lot. I think that blocking is a good indicator of how well prepared you are for what that team is going to want to do and how good of a job you are executing based on what we’ve seen.” 

The Bulldogs will look to use their strong blocking to prove the Big East’s coaches preseason poll wrong as it put Butler as an underdog once again. The Dawgs finished sixth in the conference last season at 10-8 (16-15 overall) giving them a berth in the conference tournament for the first time since 2017. If the Bulldogs can nail down two parts of the game better than their Big East opponents, then they will head to Milwaukee for the conference tournament. 

“I think our ball control and serving will really get us there because you start with those two things: you serve the ball, you pass the ball first,” Maesch said. “Then after that, that sets you up for whatever set and hit you can get afterwards.” 

The Dawgs have three months before they can switch their focus to the tournament if they finish in the top six of the conference. Until then, Coach Shondell looks to build a positive and hard working Butler volleyball culture that has aggressive offense and tenacious defense. 

The Bulldogs will look to carry on their early success at the Dayton Invite in Ohio were they will compete in three matches on Sept. 1-2. 


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