EL DORADO – Butler volleyball started Jayhawk Conference action on the winning side for the first time since 2013 with a home victory over Barton on Wednesday at the Power Plant.
The Grizzlies (4-1 overall, 1-0 conference) held off a late Barton comeback in the fourth set to come away with the victory, winning 25-20, 21-25, 25-11, 25-23.
“The last couple of years we’ve struggled getting out of the box, especially in conference,” said Butler head coach Rick Younger. “I just knew that if we could play consistent and stay with them, we had a good chance of taking them. Stat wise, we were very consistent tonight and that’s what we had to do.”
Butler had a season-high 56 kills, with sophomore hitter Brooke Fender leading the charge with 15 kills while adding 15 digs, two blocks and an ace in the win.
In the opening set, Butler made a 4-0 run behind a pair of kills from Fender to take an 18-13 lead. Barton would answer with four straight points to pull within one. Kills by Jordyn Allen, Alli Klausmeyer and Aliyah Bernard put Butler up 23-19. Bernard added another kill, then Barton hit the set point out of bounds to give the Grizzlies the first set win.
Barton took command of the second set, jumping out to leads of 6-1 and 13-5. The Grizzlies would close the margin to 21-18 behind back-to-back kills from Claudia Hess and Bernard, but Barton would eventually win the set.
Butler took a 2-1 lead in the match with a dominating third set, as the Grizzlies ended the set on a 17-5 run. Three straight blocks by Allen, Fender and Hess towards the end of the set helped Butler put away the Cougars.
In the final set, Butler broke a 2-all tie with a 10-1 run – including six straight points – to take a commanding 12-3 lead. The Grizzlies would eventually double up the Cougars 22-11 and worked their way to match point at 24-17 before Barton scored six straight points. Klausmeyer ended the Cougars’ comeback bid with a kill to end the match.
In addition to Fender’s performance, Hess pitched in with 10 kills while hitting .346 and two blocks. Nicole Klusener, Bernard and Klausmeyer each had eight kills as well on the front line. Andie Nibarger had 22 assists and nine digs, while Alex Stiles finished with 21 assists, seven digs and two aces. Abby Goodrum led Butler with 22 digs, while Klusener had 15 to match Fender. The Grizzlies had 72 digs in the match, which was also a season-high mark.
Butler will next be in action next Wednesday with a 6:30 p.m. road conference match in Colby. The Grizzlies will then head to McCook, Neb., to play four matches at the two-day McCook Invitational beginning on Friday, Sept. 8.
NOTES: Butler’s last conference opening win came on Aug. 28, 2013 with a three-set sweep over Allen County, when the Grizzlies were playing Division II and in the Jayhawk East… Butler defeated Barton for the first time since 2015. The Cougars had won three straight matches against the Grizzlies – including two three-set sweeps in Great Bend.