Bulldogs Take 3-1 Loss to Xavier in BIG EAST Opener

Stephanie Kranda

INDIANAPOLIS – The Butler Bulldog women's volleyball team competed in BIG EAST competition for the first time on Friday night as they hosted the Xavier Musketeers at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Slow starts became a theme for Butler as the team took a 3-1 loss (23-25, 25-21, 20-25, 24-26).

Xavier won a tight opening set and Butler responded by tying the match at 1-1 going into the break. Another close contest went to Xavier in the third and the Musketeers finished off Butler in the fourth.

Morgan Peterson recorded her sixth double-double of the year with 41 assists and 12 digs. She added a two blocks, two kills and a service ace to her stat line against Xavier. Additional Bulldogs that made an impact on Friday included Stephanie Kranda and Belle Obert who tied for the team lead with 12 kills.

Kranda received extra time in the rotation to replace Kelly Kyle who missed the game with an illness. Kranda stepped up to hit .429 against the Musketeers, recording 12 kills on 21 attempts with just three errors.

Obert also contributed in more than one way by recording a match-high four service aces and six blocks. The team's block leader was senior Maggie Harbison who ended the night with seven.

Abbey Bessler was the player of the game for Xavier as she led all players with 20 kills. Makayla Agin and Alex Smith also recorded a double figure kill count to help the Musketeers win in four.

These two evenly matched programs kept the action close for a majority of the night. The Bulldogs were facing a 22-16 deficit before using their second timeout of the opening set. The stoppage worked to their advantage as a 4-0 run got the 'Dogs within two. Kills from Alex Blair and Alex Smith got the Musketeers to set point, but Obert stepped up with a kill of her own to cut the gap to 24-23. Xavier used their final timeout of the set with the one point cushion and Smith ended the BU comeback with a kill off an assist from Aubree Smith.

Butler dominated in crunch time to tie the match at 1-1 as a 19-19 tie in set two turned into a 25-21 win. Kranda recorded a kill to tie the game, but it was her back-to-back service aces that got the crowd on their feet to generate a 21-19 edge. Harbison added a point late in the match and Butler took advantage of a couple Xavier miscues to pull even.

Set three was a lot like set two but this time it was Xavier taking care of business down the stretch. Erica Stahl slammed a kill down to the court to tie the set at 20-20, but the Musketeers rattled off the last five points of the set to earn the 25-20 win. Back-to-back kills from Bessler set the tone and Butler committed two attack errors to end the set.

With their backs against the wall, Butler came out to a slow start in set four as Xavier opened up an 11-3 lead. The team didn't quit as a scoring run pushed the score to 14-13 and the rest of the match would be back and forth action. Harbison scored a huge point late in the set with a kill that tied the game at 24-24. Harbison followed the point with a service error and one final attack error ended the night as Xavier held off Butler for a 26-24 win.

The Bulldogs will return to action tomorrow with a 4 p.m. contest against the Marian Knights.