Volleyball Prepares for Upcoming 2013 Schedule

Morgan Peterson

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Head Coach Sharon Clark has put together a challenging 2013 volleyball schedule after posting a 17-12 overall record last season. The Bulldogs will face five teams that made the NCAA Tournament a year ago, including two teams that made the AVCA Top 25 Preseason Poll.

The 2013 schedule features two home tournaments in mid-September to go along with a string of home regular season games, giving the Bulldogs 12-straight home games from Sept. 10 to Oct. 6. The home tournaments will be played in Hinkle Fieldhouse with the Butler Invitational slated for Sept. 13-14 and the Butler Classic to follow Sept. 20-21.

Before hosting a game, the Bulldogs will hit the road for the Cincinnati Invitational which will serve as the 2013 season opener. After playing the Bearcats on Friday afternoon, Butler will stay on campus to face Morehead State that night. The tournament will end with a single match against Tennessee, a team that made the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

The Bulldogs will return to Indianapolis to play IUPUI on Tuesday, Sept. 3 in the 2013 home opener. It will be a quick stay for the team as Bulldogs will then travel west to play in the Arizona Classic on Sept. 6. Rounding out the field in Arizona will be Utah Valley and Eastern Kentucky.

Butler's nearly one month long home stand will begin after the Arizona Classic as the Bulldogs won't play on the road again until Oct. 11 when they travel back to Cincinnati to face Xavier. Wright State will kick off the action with a single match on Sept. 10 and the Bulldogs will go on to host the Butler Invitational from Sept. 13-14.

The competition will be stiff at the Butler Invite as Illinois State, IPFW and No. 14 Michigan State visit the Hinkle Fieldhouse over the weekend. The Bulldogs will face Illinois State first on Friday before playing IPFW later that night. The Mastodons will be a good matchup for Butler as they return the 2012 Summit League Player of the Year in Emily Spencer. Spencer is one of four returning starters that took IPFW to the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

The final game of the 2013 Butler Invite will serve as the ultimate test as the Bulldogs face No. 14 Michigan State at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday night. The Spartans won two games in last year's NCAA Tournament before falling out to Big Ten foe Michigan in the Regionals. Michigan State will return two All-Americans from a year ago to mix in with the No. 7 recruiting class in the country (PrepVolleyball.com).

"From a competitive standpoint, we want to make the most of our opportunities and play some of the top teams in the country," Head Coach Sharon Clark expressed.

The second home tournament of the non-conference season will be played the following weekend as the Bulldogs host the Butler Classic from Sept. 20-21. Green Bay, UT-Martin and Toledo will participate in the tournament with Butler playing the Phoenix and the Skyhawks on Friday. The action ends with the Bulldogs hosting the Rockets on Saturday night at 7 p.m.

Conference action begins after the Butler Classic as the Bulldogs host Xavier in the BIG EAST opener on Friday, Sept. 27. The first four BIG EAST games of the season will be played at home with No. 25 Creighton, St. John's, and Seton Hall all coming to Indy in early October.

The Creighton match highlights the stretch of games as they come to the Hinkle Fieldhouse as a ranked opponent that reached the NCAA Tournament last year. The Bluejays won their first round match over Marquette 3-0 before falling out of the tournament with a 1-3 loss to Minnesota in round two. The team returns four starters and a libero from a squad that finished 29-4 a year ago.

With three home conference games to start the month, the Bulldogs will turn into road warriors for the remainder of October playing at Xavier, Creighton, Seton Hall and St. John's. All four teams were picked to finish in the top half of the conference in the preseason poll with Creighton coming in as the favorites, Xavier landing in third, Seton Hall fourth and St. John's fifth.

The month of November brings on brand new challenges as the schedule shifts to games against Marquette, DePaul, Villanova, and Georgetown. Four of the first six matches in November will be at home with Marquette and DePaul kicking things off Nov. 1-2. Georgetown will come to the Hinkle Fieldhouse on Nov. 15 and senior day for Morgan Peterson, Maggie Harbison and Claire Randich will be set for Nov. 16.

"We are excited about our upcoming schedule and to be a part of the new BIG EAST Conference," Clark stated.

The top four teams in the final regular-season standings will participate in the BIG EAST Volleyball Championship, which will be hosted by Creighton Nov. 29-30. Butler will try to crack the top four as they were recently picked sixth in the BIG EAST Preseason Poll even though they return five starters, including preseason All-BIG EAST selection Erica Stahl. Stahl, a 6-3 middle blocker from Bishop Chatard H.S., led the team in blocks (153) and ranked 13th in the nation with 1.49 blocks per set as a sophomore.

Maggie Harbison, Claire Randich and Belle Obert all return for the 2013 season after starting for the Bulldogs a year ago. Each player recorded over 200 kills and 50 blocks last season. Impacting the game in a variety of ways is a special trait with this group as Harbison recorded 29 service aces last year, Randich nearly led the team with a .282 attack percentage, and Obert recorded 201 digs during her sophomore season.

Senior leadership will come from Harbison, Randich and setter Morgan Peterson this season. Peterson had a great junior campaign, leading the team with 1,018 assists (9.6 per set) and 30 service aces. The Seymour, Tenn. native is a well-rounded player as she also contributed with 124 kills, 279 digs, and 101 blocks.

The Bulldogs also have a pair of juniors that will compete for time at the libero position in Brooke Ruffolo and Jadyn Yarling. Each student-athlete played in nearly 90 sets a year ago with Ruffolo ending the year with 335 digs and Yarling with 210.