DePaul volleyball libero brings leadership, composure to team


Jonathan Aguilar / The DePaulia

DePaul libero Isabelle Banez goes for a pass against Xavier on Wednesday at McGrath-Phillips Arena. The Blue Demons lost the match in five sets.

Isabelle Banez embodies the spirit of the entire women’s volleyball team at DePaul. Her buzzing attitude and leadership bring a great element to the team. The whole team calls her by the nickname “Belle” and it is used as a term of endearment because everyone adores her.

She is even a hometown hero on the team.

“I have been in Chicago my whole life,” Banez said. “I think it is one of the best cities in the world and I wanted to stay in touch with my roots.”

Banez also felt a connection to DePaul’s ideas.

“I felt really welcome when I came to DePaul and I liked their mission,” Banez said.

Her family has always been a pillar of her success. “My parents are my biggest supporters and can come see me play and they are able to see me play easily,” Banez said.

Although Banez found her skills in volleyball, it wasn’t her first love. The first sport she really got into was basketball.

“I really fell in love with that, but my sister and both my parents played volleyball so I got into that really quickly and I fell in love with the game even more than basketball,” Banez said.

Her volleyball skills blossomed and her family support was huge.

“They were able to give me the opportunity to play on travel teams,” she said. “I was able to learn a lot from them, and they pushed me to be the best player I could be at every aspect of the game.”

Her volleyball resume, stacked with leadership, grew as she got older. Banez was a three-time captain of her Northside College Preparatory High School team. There, she made numerous all-tournament teams as well as Most Valuable Player awards. She also won the Northside Volleyball Senior Leadership Award.

“I didn’t expect to grow into a leadership role as a sophomore in high school,” she said. “It was difficult gaining the respect of older players, but with the role that I had, I quickly grew into it and got into my comfort zone.”

Banez has continued to advance her game every year at DePaul. She was second on the team in digs during her freshman year. Last year, in her sophomore season, she was first on the team in digs and fourth in the conference. She was also named to the Big East All-Academic Team during her freshman year.

Her experience as captain allows her to bring a nuanced and professional approach to leadership.

“I was able to reach out to players in other ways, because everyone needs something different,” she said. “That’s one of the biggest things that I took from being a captain in high school and putting the team’s best interest over anything else.”

This season, she received more accolades – she was named to the all-tournament team in both tournaments that DePaul won and took home tournament MVP in the Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational.

Even with her experience, college volleyball was an adjustment.

“When I first came to DePaul, the speed of the game was a lot different,” she said. “I was intimidated as a freshman, but over time those experiences allowed me to be comfortable and adjust.”

Banez also said that her best friend on the team is Isabell De La Rosa.

“It’s funny, she came in really open, she made me feel really comfortable,” De La Rosa said. “She is my roommate as well.”

The two also had similarities off the court.

“We had the same major starting out and being able to experience that with a teammate of mine and a friend was really special,” De La Rosa said.

When De La Rosa was asked about their friendship, she described it as a connection.

“Sometimes we don’t have words to say and we are so close because we have matching names,” De La Rosa said. “Volleyball made us really close and [Banez] is very focused. She knows what she wants and works really hard to be good on the court.”

Earlier this year, Banez won three-straight Big East Defensive Player of the Week awards and was a huge part of the Blue Demons 8-1 start to the season.

Finding her spot on the court wasn’t smooth at first.

“I started out in the front row as a hitter, but I quickly realized that I was not going to get taller, so staying in the back row was probably the best move for me,” Belle said.

Banez has continued to excel regardless of her role on the team, and has done everything she can to fill the holes as they have come.

“She is one of the unique athletes that comes in to practice every day with a hardworking attitude,” coach Marie Zidek said of Banez. “She works hard, she’s always focused, she never has a bad day and you need athletes and people like that on your team that are stable, and she expects a lot of herself.”

Banez’s leadership brings a great element to the team.

“She prides herself the most on working hard to make every play,” Zidek said. “Whenever she has the ball, she values making everything as perfect as possible to help the team.”