Volleyball goes winless in DePaul Invitational

DePaul Volleyball came up winless in all three of their home opening games of the two-day DePaul Invitational at McGrath-Phillips Arena, dropping their record to 2-6 after four straight losses.

The Blue Demons never recorded a hitting percentage above .207 and subsequently got swept 3-0 in their first two matches of the weekend. Their first defeat came on Friday night against the Connecticut Huskies (6-4) and Saturday morning versus the Florida Atlantic Owls (6-3), who wound up winning the tournament.

On Saturday night, however, the Blue Demons avoided getting swept in three consecutive outings by winning the third set 26-24 against the Purdue-Ft. Wayne Mastodons (7-4) in a 3-1 loss. Even though the Blue Demons were winless in the tournament, the third set against the Mastodons gave DePaul a revitalized sense of energy and collective uptick in team confidence.

“That was huge,” first-year DePaul head coach Marie Zidek said after coaching for the first time in Lincoln Park. “If we can move the needle forward physically, mentally, emotionally and compete harder a little bit everyday, we’re good you know and so that third set was huge. That does a ton for confidence, belief, and it keeps the girls and the team hungry to work hard in practice to prepare for our next weekend’s competition you know and they get three more opportunities to come out strong.”

Ashley Marshall, a five-foot-11-inch junior, mentioned that the Blue Demons had better poise and communication during that third set, ultimately leading to more trust amongst teammates. “I think we believed a lot more in each other,” Marshall said. “Our coaches throw in a lot of different lineups, but no matter what they threw at us we were able to come together in that third set and everyone kind of gelled and everyone played their role, so it was really important that we won that set because it gives us a lot of momentum and a lot of encouragement and we know we can do it.”

Zidek, who was named head coach of the volleyball program in December 2017 after spending four seasons as an assistant coach at the University of San Diego and leading that program to the NCAA Tournament every year, has implemented a new system to create well-rounded athletes. Zidek stated that transforming her players into ones who have multiple tricks of the trade is an overlooked team element.

“When we came in, they were very one-dimensional athletes,” Zidek said. “Everybody could do one thing okay, pretty well, and what we’ve done is we’ve inserted this system that forces these athletes to be good at multiple different things and at multiple positions because then you’re not relying on just one player to have a great game. You’re relying on a system, and so I think you know when people look at the win-loss column they don’t understand just how hard it is to understand a system and to implement it.”

For a 16-player roster carrying nine underclassmen, four of which are freshmen, working diligently within Zidek’s system is a task in itself for the entire team. “The newcomers, first it took them a while to get accustomed to the system, but we know it now,” Marshall said. “The coaches have assigned us roles and I think once we stick to the roles and everyone does what they’re supposed to do then we’ll come out on top in each and every single game.” The Blue Demons seek to continue to maintain a strong work ethic in their practices when preparing for upcoming matches as the season progresses.

“I think we practice really hard in the gym. When we practice, we go hard in the paint and that translated into the game we did,” Marshall said. “We have the support of our teammates as well, so that’s a big confidence booster when you know the girl next to you believes in you then you start to believe in yourself.”

Next up on DePaul’s schedule is the Chicago Cup on September 14-15 that will feature nearby rivals in Northwestern, UIC, and Loyola-Chicago.