Early Lead Vanishes, Redbirds Fall to Butler 3-2
Stacey Naio
Stacey Naio

Sept. 13, 2013

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - As the old saying goes, "You can take the dog out of the fight, but you can't take the fight out of the dog." The Illinois State volleyball team (6-2) was defeated by Butler (8-1) in five sets (25-18, 25-21, 23-25, 18-25, 16-18) Friday, as the Redbirds dropped their first match of the Butler tournament and recorded their first loss since Aug. 31. The Redbirds were led by Stacey Niao, who compiled a career-high 17 kills, and Brooklyn Hlafka, who amassed 15 kills.

Heading into the match, the Redbirds were 3-0 all-time against Butler, recording their last victory on Nov. 8, 1994. In the first set, the Butler offense was in disarray, recording six errors early and giving the lead to Illinois State, 7-1. Led by Niao's six kills, the Redbirds would never relinquish the lead in the first set. The closest the Bulldogs would come was a five-point deficit, as an Erica Stahl kill pulled Butler to a 20-15 deficit. The Redbirds continued to roll however, and sealed the first set 25-18.

The second set was highlighted by an efficient Redbird offense, as ISU clubbed a combined .310 hitting percentage. Led by Hlafka and Niao, who both had 5 kills in the set, the Redbirds battled with the Bulldogs in a tightly contested second set. Tied 17-17 late in the set, four Bulldog errors keyed the Redbirds victory, winning the set 25-21.

The Bulldogs came to life in the third set, as Mary Stahl and Erica Striedl combined for 11 kills to key the turnaround. Despite an early lead for Illinois State, the Bulldogs battled an early four-point deficit to tie things at 15-15. Stahl and Striedl's energy ignited the offense, and they eventually captured the set 25-23.

Their worst offensive set of the match, ISU struggled to find a rhythm, hitting a meager .073 as a team. The `Birds tallied seven attack errors to just 10 total kills, and the Bulldogs easily took the set, 25-18.

The final set was highlighted by clutch plays, relentless hustle and long rallies by both teams. A ball-handling error gave Butler a commanding three-point lead in the set and forced head coach Melissa Myers to take a timeout. Immediately following the timeout, the Redbirds scored the next three points, tying the action at 10-10.

Neither team would take command of the set, as the teams were once again tied at 16-16. The Redbirds had a match-point opportunity but couldn't' capitalize on the chance. Back-to-back kills by Striedl ended the match, sending the Redbirds to just their second loss of the season, 18-16.

The Redbirds will next face Michigan State at 10 a.m. (CT) Saturday, followed by Indiana University-Purdue Fort Wayne (IPFW) in the final match of the tournament for Illinois State at 2 p.m. (CT).

All Redbird matches can be heard live on GoRedbirds.com and WJBC.com.

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