The First Serve
The Butler volleyball team opens Horizon League play at home this weekend, taking on Cleveland State and Youngstown State at Hinkle Fieldhouse. CSU comes to Hinkle Friday evening in a rematch of last year’s league tournament semifinal. The Dawgs then host 1-10 Youngstown State Saturday, Sept. 17.
Butler is coming off a 3-1 week last week, capturing victories over Chicago State (3-0), Elon (3-1) and Austin Peay (3-0). In the final contest of last weekend’s Butler Invitational, Central Michigan got the best of the Dawgs, 3-0. Butler and Central Michigan each finished 2-1 at the four-team event, as did Elon.
Freshmen Brooke Ruffolo and Kelly Kyle were selected to the weekend’s all-tournament team. Ruffolo then was named Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week after averaging 5.85 digs per set over the four matches last week. She averaged 6.00 digs per set during the Butler Invitational.
Kelly and senior Maureen Bamiro, coincidentally, have identical team-leading offensive numbers for Butler. Both Kelly and Bamiro are averaging 2.95 digs per set over 41 sets. Bamiro is hitting .283 and is second on the team in blocking with 0.88 blocks per set. BU’s leading blocker is Maggie Harbison, who is tied for fifth in the Horizon League with 0.92 per set.
Cleveland State (7-4) enters after a solid non-conference season. The Vikings have defeated Indiana, St. John’s and DePaul so far this season. CSU is led by Kara Koch, who is averaging 3.85 kills per set.
“It’s going to be a battle between two solid teams,” head coach Sharon Clark said. “We’ve had a great rivalry with Cleveland State in recent years. We both know in most years we’ll both be contending for the league title.”
ALL-TOURNEY DAWGS: Four Bulldogs were named all-tournament during the three weekends of non-conference action. Maggie Harbison was tabbed all-tournament at Notre Dame after hitting .321 with 1.21 blocks per set and Maureen Bamiro was on the all-tourney team at Portland after averaging 1.14 blocks and 2.43 kills. This past weekend in the Butler Invitational, Brooke Ruffolo and Kelly Kyle were each honored after standout performances. Kyle averaged 3.90 kills per set during the event, while Ruffolo had 6.00 digs.
CSU RIVALRY: Butler and Cleveland State have been near the top of the league standings the last couple of years, and Friday’s tilt is likely to decide a lot going forward this season. BU took two of three from CSU last season, including a 3-2 win in the semifinal of last year’s conference tournament. That match included a thrilling 29-27 fourth set. Butler rolled in the decisive set 15-7.
TOP COMPETITION: Butler has once again fashioned a very challenging non-conference schedule. BU has faced Notre Dame, Portland, Texas A&M and Washington State. Notre Dame and Texas A&M are each reveiving votes in national polls.
BU ALL-TIME vs. THIS WEEK: Butler is a combined 45-12 all-time against Cleveland State and Youngstown State. BU has never lost to YSU, posting a 21-0 mark against the Penguins since they joined the league in 2001.
BU HITS ON 21: Butler has won 21 matches in each of the last two seasons. That’s the most in a 2-year span since 1996-97 (54 wins). BU went 21-14 in 2009 and 21-10 last year.
GIVING ‘MO’ THIS YEAR: Maureen Bamiro, an All-Horizon League and All-Midwest Region last year, ranked in the Horizon League’s top 10 in three different categories last season. She was second in blocks (1.11) fifth in hitting (.289) and eighth in points (3.40).
AVCA HONORS: Jessica Wolfe, who has joined the coaching staff as a student assistant, finished her time at BU by capturing all-region and All-American status from the AVCA for the second straight year. Wolfe became only the second Bulldog player to become honorable mention All-American twice (Areal Bienemy, 2003-04). Maureen Bamiro was also selected all-region by the coaches association.
GETTING CLAIRE BACK: Claire Randich, a starter and Horizon League All-Newcomer Team pick a year ago, missed the first six matches of the season. She made her season debut against Chicago State last week and is working her way into the regular rotation.
FRESHMAN IMPACT: In addition to Kelly Kyle and Brooke Ruffolo, the young Bulldog team has seen two other freshmen play their way into the starting lineup. Belle Obert has started all 11 matches this season and Stephanie Kranda has also been a starter. Off the bench, BU has also gotten a steady defensive presence from another rookie in Jadyn Yarling.
NEXT WEEK: Butler will take on Horizon League favorite Milwaukee Friday, Sept. 23. It’s the only match of the weekend for the Bulldogs.