Errors get best of Butler Grizzlies VB in NJCAA Final Four

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Butler's Ivy Fink (15) returns a ball against New Mexico Military Institute in the NJCAA semifinals on Friday, Nov. 19 at Hutchinson Sports Arena. Barbara Rezende (9) and Karya Suvariuglu (5) go for the block.

HUTCHINSON, Kansas — While New Mexico Military were a brick wall at the net, in the end for Butler, it was their unforced errors that did them in on Friday night. 

New Mexico Military Institute beat the Grizzlies, 3-1 (25-21, 20-25, 15-25, 19-25), in the NJCAA volleyball semifinals at Hutchinson Sports Arena. The loss ended a 33-match winning streak for the Grizzlies.

"We did things tonight that we're not used to doing," Butler head coach Lisa Lechtenberg said. "The errors piled up today; it was one after the other."

The loss drops Butler to 37-3 on the season and will still have a placement match tomorrow afternoon.

NMMI now has won 20 consecutive matches.

It was the little things NMMI did right, such as serving efficiently and having players in the right spot at all times. Any time the Grizzlies had an opportunity to get the ball set where they'd like, there was either a brick wall of Lady Broncos waiting at the net or they forced Butler to redirect their shot elsewhere. More often than not, there would be a waiting player ready to set up the return. 

The differences in the first set and the last three were simple. Butler made mistakes that put them in holes and when they would force an NMMI error, they would respond with an unforced one of their own, such as a bad serve or miscommunication on return. After NMMI (33-4) won the second set, they dominated the third, limiting what Butler did and flustered the usually composed Grizzlies. It wasn't until NMMI had built a 22-10 lead before they found their first point rally of the set. By that time, NMMI had built an insurmountable lead. 

Services issues plagued the Grizzlies through the final two sets, with five different NMMI points coming off serves that were either hit into the net or long. 

"You cannot have 11 service errors and expect to win volleyball matches," Lechtenberg said. "The first two sets we hit alright but not the rest of the match."

NMMI built a 19-11 lead in the fourth set as the Grizzlies tried to make one final push but  the trio of Katarzyna Niderla, Marian Ovalle and Darcy Dodd were too much for the Grizzlies to overcome.

"We knew the middles, No. 4 (Niderla) and No. 8 (Ovalle), which we knew that they were going to go to the most did a great job," Lechtenberg said. "We did not do as well as we should have defending them. That's where it really hurt us."

Butler will face Missouri State-West Plains in the third place match at 4:30 p.m. 

Win or loss, it's the best season Butler has ever seen. They've tied the season for wins a year and never have made it to the national tournament. Now, they get to play for third place. 

"I hope the girls remember that tomorrow, no matter what, you know that it has been a hell of a season," Lechtenberg said. "Not everybody gets to win their last game and we have that opportunity tomorrow to win our last game."

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.