Cleveland, Ohio - Butler put together one of its best offensive performances of the season, knocking down a season-best 77 kills on .306 hitting, and put itself on the brink of an appearance in the Horizon League Championship match, but top-seeded Milwaukee scored the critical points it needed late to escape with an incredible 37-35, 18-25, 26-28, 25-18, 15-8 decision at Woodling Gymnasium on Saturday (Nov. 22) afternoon.
Porshia Allen posted a team-high 20 kills and Jessica Wolfe tallied her 13th double-double of the season with 19 kills and 20 digs as the Bulldogs came up just short of their first championship match appearance since 2000.
Katie Daprile also finished the match with a team-high 25 digs, giving her a school single-season record 541 on the year. Her total surpassed the previous record of 522 - set by Laura Baire in 1993 - by 19 digs.
The opening set was nearly an entire match in itself, as the two squads battled through 27 ties and 12 lead changes before the contest was decided.
A kill by Kelsey Labrum and an ensuing attack error by the Panthers put the Bulldogs on set point at 24-22, but a UWM kill and a Butler service error brought the game back to even at 24.
The Bulldogs would have seven more set points the rest of the way, but the Panthers managed to thwart each one. On the flip side, Milwaukee had its fair share of chances to put the set away, forcing six set points of their own only to have Butler break up their potential winning point.
The set would finally come to a close, as the Panthers strung together three-straight points to claim a 37-35 decision and a lead in the match.
The early deficit was nothing new to the Bulldogs, after Loyola spotted itself a 1-0 lead before Butler came roaring back for wins in the next three sets to claim a 3-1 win.
The Bulldogs followed the same script against the Panthers, working their way out to an 18-11 lead in the second set before holding on for a 25-18 victory to even the match at 1-1.
The rally continued after the break despite a fast start by UWM. The Panthers worked their way out to a five-point edge at 13-8 before the Bulldogs reeled off seven-straight points to take a 15-13 advantage.
Butler would hold the lead despite several counters by the Panthers and itself at set point once again at 24-22. Milwaukee would not fold easily, however, as it swung the set around with three-straight points to take a 25-24 lead.
The Bulldogs held their own, breaking up back-to-back set points by UWM before scoring three-straight of their own to claim a 28-26 decision for the lead in the match.
Butler kept things close in the early part of the fourth set and trailed by just two points at 16-14 midway through, but a 6-1 surge by Milwaukee increased the gap to seven before the Panthers evened the match once more at 2-2.
Following the same format as the previous sets, the decisive fifth bout featured back-and-forth play through the early points before Butler took a 4-3 lead on a kill by Wolfe. A 6-0 run by the Panthers, however, turned a 5-5 tie into an 11-5 deficit and, despite a valiant rally attempt by the Bulldogs, the difference would prove to be too much in the end.
Butler out-hit the Panthers, .306 (77-21-183) to .276 (75-21-196) and held an 82 to 78 edge on digs in a match that featured 50 ties and 21 lead changes.
Allen finished led the team with a .447 (20-3-38) hitting percentage and chipped in six digs, while Wolfe posted 19 kills and 20 digs. Maureen Bamiro (14 kills) and Labrum (11) also finished with double-digit kill totals, while Elyssa Garfinkle posted a career-best 12 digs. Dana Daprile tied her season-high with 57 assists and added seven kills.
Butler finishes the season with 19 wins, the most for the program since the 2003 season.