Butler volleyball wins 29th consecutive win with straight set victory over Pratt Beavers

Lionel Tipton
Special to Butler County Times-Gazette
Butler celebrates a point in their straight sets win over Pratt on Friday,

EL DORADO – Long after the last kill, as crews were taking down the equipment from the first-round Region VI match between Pratt and Butler, the PA system blared Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business.”

Nothing could be more appropriate for the Grizzlies’ volleyball team Tuesday night.

A thing of beauty, it was not. What it was, was enough to get Butler to the second round of the region playoffs, finally ousting the Beavers in straight sets, 25-22, 25-15, 25-15. The Grizzlies sputtered a little at the start, then found their stride in the third set to move on.

“I think Step One was going to be the hardest,” sophomore middle blocker Carly Clennan said. “If you’re playing the (lowest) ranked team, you give respect, but they’ve got nothing to lose.

“Our signature has been what we’ve done the whole season. We’re in control, and no matter what they do to try to cross us up, we are going to win, and it’s nothing but that mindset.”

Butler advances to the second round Friday, also at the Power Plant, against the winner of Wednesday’s Colby at Dodge City match.

This was not supposed to be even that close. The Grizzlies (32-2, 17-0) have now won 29 straight, including a road sweep last week at Seward County and Garden City. They had won 38 of the past 39 sets entering this match. Pratt, on the other hand, came in with an 11-22 mark but essentially had nothing to lose. 

The Beavers played inspired in the first set, rallying from a being down 6-1 early to tying the set, 20-20. But back-to-back kills from Clennan and freshman Ivy Fink – one of her team-high 13 – restored order.

A lot of Butler’s problems were self-inflicted, coach Lisa Lechtenberg said afterward.

“We kind of told (the team) in the timeout that it’s so much what (Pratt) did but what we were doing to ourselves,” she said. “We had six serving errors in the first set, and that gave them six points.”

Butler again jumped to an early lead in the second set, but again Pratt refused to go away and forged a 6-6 tie before the Grizzlies pulled away to win the set.

The Grizzlies finally found their stride in the third set, jumping to a 9-1 lead that grew to 19-9 and kept Pratt at arm’s length after that.

Even though the match wasn’t really in danger, Butler did what it needed to move on.

“The girls have a little saying going on, about how we respect teams,” Lechtenberg said. “And they say, ‘By eating them!’”

Sophomore Kayli Duncan had a balanced match, recording seven kills and assisting on a team-high six of the Grizzlies’ 16 blocks. 

“She blocks a lot of balls for us,” Lechtenberg said. “She does a great job of pressing over.”

Another sophomore, Sydney Morrow, played for the first time at home since returning from injury, and Lechtenberg said she provided a shot in the arm and help for Vanya Przuli, who filled in during her absence.

“Sydney really helps us in our ball control,” Lechtenberg said. “She has experience on the court, and Vanya’s not one to mess around with either, and it’s so nice to have a bench where we can put multiple players in, and we don’t have to worry about it.”

Przuli has a pre-serve ritual of dribbling the ball close to the ground before hitting it that is readily identifiable.

“I just started doing that recently,” she said. “It’s just my thing.”

Lechtenberg said Przuli pays special attention to serving.

“She puts a lot of pride in her serve,” Lechtenberg said, “and she really challenges herself when we’re doing serving drills to put it right spot-on.”

Przuli has bonded well with the team despite joining late, Clennan said.

“She has stepped up and grown so much,” Clennan said of Przuli.

Serving well became very important, as a number of Grizzly serves went into the net – more than Lechtenberg would like.

“You can’t hand a team six points,” she said. “We talk about having teams earn their points, instead of just handing them over to them. But will work on that (Wednesday) and Thursday, and Friday we’ll be better at it.”

Duncan faced off for the third time against her former Circle High teammate Addison Devine, a 5-foot-11 freshman at Pratt. Butler has had a history of Circle players, a total that will grow by one at semester when Ella Mullins graduates and joins the Grizzlies.

Duncan said it’s fun – even though Devine is across from her and not beside her. 

“It’s definitely weird playing on the other side of the net (from Devine),” Duncan said. “It’s always good to see her.”

Devine echoed the odd feeling of seeing Duncan as her opponent.

“Kayli’s been doing great, and it’s awesome to play against her,” Devine said. “I see her on the court, and it just brings back those high school memories.”

The spoiler role was just not in the cards for Pratt on Tuesday, she said.

“We definitely did good,” she said. “I wish we could have started faster in the first set.”

Lechtenberg said she knows the next match probably will not be as easy, so better preparation will be needed.

“I don’t know if it was jitters, I don’t know what it was, because we are at home and I told the team that there’s a lot of things falling into place for them,” she said.

“We get to do it on our home floor. We need to keep our same routines, our same serve-pass, Mom and Dad are in the stands, things are in place for us. We’ve just got to finish.”