Jaryn Benning and the Butler Grizzlies volleyball win 23rd consecutive match with win over Barton

Lionel Tipton
Kayli Duncan returns a ball against Barton in the sweep on Saturday, Oct. 16 at the Power Plant in El Dorado, Kansas. Duncan and the Grizzlies now have won 23 consecutive matches.

EL DORADO – Her teammates call her “Granny,” but Butler sophomore outside hitter Jaryn Benning sure doesn’t hit like one.

Benning – who also competes for the Grizzlies’ softball team in the spring – served five of the fifth-ranked Grizzlies’ 12 aces and had a team-high nine kills in a straight-set victory Saturday over Barton at the Power Plant that pushed the Butler winning streak to 23 straight.

The Cougars had carried a glossy 19-9 record into the Power Plant on Saturday and were 9-2 in conference, nipping at the Grizzlies’ heels in the Jayhawk Conference West Division.

“Barton’s a really good team,” Butler coach Lisa Lechtenberg said. “We prepared for them like we prepare for every team, and the girls really executed the game plan. I told them, ‘If you add up our aces, our kills and our blocks, you don’t get 75 (points).  You guys are disciplined enough and see things well enough that you frustrate them.’ I think they are frustrating teams to where the teams are making errors.”

But when the match was finished, Butler had made Barton just another addition to its list of victims.

Only five regular-season games remain, and the Grizzlies (27-2, 11-0) are a far cry from last season’s 14-10 mark and sixth-place finish in a season that was contested this past spring.

Benning provides such power consistently and always seems to be spurring on the action. That kind of play has been critical in the Butler winning streak.

But the 5-foot-10 Benning defers.

“We really stick to our game plan that we all really take seriously, so I think it’s a testament to that,” she said. 

A streak of 23 games was pretty much unheard of when Benning first came to Butler, she said. 

“My freshman year, it was a little rocky,” she said. “But I always had confidence in the coaches and just the staff is great.”

The COVID allowances on eligibility have thrown many rosters into disarray, but Benning has been one athlete to benefit from it.

“It’s helped me really grow as a player and get a ton more offers this season, and it has helped overall and to have two great coaches.”

One of those coaches, Lechtenberg, said she can relate to a lot of what Benning is experiencing.

“She’s a right side (hitter), and I was on the right side in college,” Lechtenberg said. “Her wanting to come back for a third year really meant a lot to me personally, and a lot to our program, that somebody would want to stay in our program. 

“Her growth over these past three seasons has been tremendous. She’ll tell you that when she came in as a freshman, she didn’t start right away. She earned her spot. She has not given it up. She has had to learn that there’s so much to the game of volleyball. She understands it. She sees things, and she’s a joy to have on the court.”

Lechtenberg has two third-year players, Benning and outside hitter Vanya Przuli. 

“(Przuli) actually played last year at another junior college but she was looking to finish her degree and had that extra year of (eligibility because of) COVID, and we actually played her last year, and we said of course to have you join our team,” Lechtenberg said. 

To be having this amount of success this season has even surprised Lechtenberg, she said.

“This is my first 20-win season here at Butler,” she said. “I knew that we had packed our schedule this year to have a lot of matches. I have a friend who watches every game (online), and at the end of September, she told me, ‘You did not lose in September.’ And I hadn’t enjoyed it (enough).” 

That Butler has been able to keep a streak such as this going for 23 games is also a nod to the Grizzlies’ depth – especially when they haven’t had a full, healthy roster in awhile. Saturday, sophomore outside hitter Sydney Morrow – a key in the Butler triumph Sept. 25 over Seward – was sidelined because of a shoulder injury.

“That just contributes to our entire team,” Lechtenberg said. “As soon as (Morrow) can go, she can go, but right now she’s in enough pain that she can’t go. Vanya’s done a great job. She has stepped right in. I’d kind of like to think that we haven’t missed a beat with her in there.

“Our conference is tough. There’s never an easy night.”

The Grizzlies have just one regular-season home game remaining, next Saturday against Cloud County at 2 p.m. As was the case this week, where fans attending the Butler football game were admitted free to volleyball or the soccer game at BG Stadium, next week fans can go to the match with Cloud and be admitted free to the football game against Fort Scott at 7. 

The Grizzlies will be at Colby on Monday and at Hutch on Wednesday before coming back to face Cloud. They will then end the regular season on the road at Seward and Garden City on Oct. 28-29.