Result: Butler def. Loyola 22-25, 25-20, 25-16, 24-26, 15-13
CHICAGO - The Butler volleyball team held off a Loyola rally to win its Horizon League opener, 3-2, Friday night at LU's Alumni Gym in Chicago. The Bulldogs have now won three of their last four matches.
Senior Jessica Wolfe had 19 kills and freshman Maggie Harbison added 12. Each Bulldog player had nine digs. Sophomore Gina Vera dished 54 assists and added 12 digs. Junior Maureen Bamiro had 13 kills on .478 hitting and had four block assists.
"It was a great match. We got phenomenal blocking from our freshmen," head coach Sharon Clark said.
The Ramblers won a very close first set 25-22, one in which neither team led by more than two points until the final margin. BU led 17-16 before three straight Loyola points made it 19-17. The two teams went back and forth until Loyola took a 23-21 lead to force a Butler timeout. Loyola finished the set with a pair of kills to take the early match lead.
Butler took control of the match in the second and third sets. A kill by freshman Claire Randich put the Dawgs in control at 10-6, but the Ramblers battled back to lead 13-11. With the scored tied at 17 moments later, BU ripped off a pair of blocks and an ace by senior Susan Lester to go up 20-17. BU would go on to win 25-20.
The Bulldogs used that momentum to dominate the third set 25-16. Butler sprinted out to a 6-1 lead and didn't look back, leading by as many as 10 at several different points in the set.
The fourth set, Butler's chance to end Loyola's night early, was filled with drama. Neither team backed down, as Loyola eventually pulled it out 26-24. BU led 7-3 early, forcing a Rambler timeout. The two teams battled back and forth, with Butler eventually taking a 20-19 lead on a Loyola attack error. A kill by Wolfe would give BU a 23-20 advantage, and the Bulldogs seemed poised to win in four sets.
However, with set point at 24-21, Loyola answered with two straight points to force a BU timeout. The Ramblers went on to score two more points to lead 25-24, set point Loyola. On the next play, a Francis kill gave Loyola the set and the match moved into a fifth and decisive set.
The early moments of the fifth set were even, but the Dawgs took control on a block by Harbison and Randich to lead 11-8. A Wolfe kill would make it 13-10. BU led 14-11 before the Ramblers scored twice to stay alive. After a Butler timeout, Vera delivered with a kill to clinch the match for the Bulldogs.
"Loyola fought back hard in the fourth set, but our hitting and blocking pulled us through in the fifth," Clark said. "We focused on our strengths and their weaknesses. Blocking was the key."
Butler (5-6, 1-0 HL) had a sizable advantage in blocking (13-6) and hit .312. Loyola's Diana Schulte had a match-high 23 kills.