DePaul volleyball leaves their blues behind

Sophomore Randi Leath serves a ball against an opponent at McGrath-Phillips Arena. (Photo courtesy of DePaul Athletics)
Sophomore Randi Leath serves a ball against an opponent at McGrath-Phillips Arena. (Photo courtesy of DePaul Athletics)

Sitting at 3-20 and already halfway through their conference schedule, DePaul volleyball is looking at this season as a turning point.  With seven games left on the schedule, the group has collectively looked at their schemes and is making adjustments.

“We have enough time to make adjustments,” DePaul sophomore Randi Leath said. “We have to get better every day and keep grinding.”

DePaul has struggled this season after going 16-14 in 2013, in which the team went undefeated in their non-conference schedule and then ended the year by going 2-14 in the Big East. Much like last year, the Blue Demons have struggled in the Big East, going 1-10 so far and have lost nine in a row.

But the team is planning to take advantage of the Big East schedule. Since the team plays 18 conference games, they will play every Big East team twice. Having already played every team at least once, DePaul now has a shot at redemption.

“This group is very talented and athletic, and we’re still trying to develop the chemistry,” DePaul head coach Nadia Edwards said. “Now that we’ve already seen what they’re facing, it’s about playing better volleyball in the second half.”

To do that, the Blue Demons are switching up their defensive schemes. During the first half of the season, Leath said that the team looked at the ways other teams were scoring against the Blue Demons and changed schemes conceptually.

Leath also said that the switch would help the younger players on the team. This season the Blue Demons have eight freshmen, which makes up half of the 16-team roster.

“It will definitely help us knowing where people are supposed to be at,” Leath said. “We have a really new group here and it will help everyone meld on the court a lot better. You don’t have to worry about who is next to you. It’s all about the system.

“With the sport we play, you have to be able to work in a system really well,” she said. “If you don’t know the system really well, there’s going to be confusion. But everyone on this team is good enough that as long as we play within it, we’ll be successful.”

Even with the new players, some freshmen have already created an impact. Freshman Myah Reed is fourth on the team in points (133) and third in kills with 117.

And as the season progresses, Edwards said those players have improved.

“The younger players have answered the call about taking on a role that they haven’t had to do before,” Edwards said.  “Several of them have found themselves in that position. They really have matured very quickly.”

As a redshirt sophomore, Leath is using her three years of experience at DePaul to help the young group of players mature. While the Blue Demons don’t have any seniors on the roster, Leath pointed to the junior class as the leaders on the team.

Juniors Colleen Smith, JayQuayla Baker and Saige Gallop all have had an impact for the Blue Demons this season. Saige leads in points (264) and kills (240) by a substantial margin. Smith and Baker, Leath said, are vocal leaders on the team.

“We have a very defined upper class,” Leath said. “Especially because we had a group of girls here who were together in the spring. We figured out the goals that we wanted and the type of mindset we have. I don’t think that’s been lacking. Maturity wise, I think a lot of our juniors are seniors.”

Leath said the culture that the upperclassmen want to instill is disciplined and one of competiveness. She wants the team to push each other hard in practice, so that it carries over to the games.

In one of DePaul’s latest games and second meeting against Georgetown, the competitiveness was certainly there. The Blue Demons pushed the Hoyas to five sets on the road.  DePaul lost the first set, but stormed back to  take the next two sets, 26-24 and 25-23. DePaul narrowly lost the fourth set 28-26 and lost the tiebreaker 15-11.

DePaul also lost 3-0 to Creighton, the top team in the Big East, Sunday.

Amid the losing streak, Edwards said her team has remained mentally strong.

“There are a lot of opportunities to finish on a really strong note with this group,” Edwards said. “If we don’t believe, than it won’t happen. Believing is the starting point.”

Leath echoed that similar sentiment.

“We have half a season left, and you can’t be complacent with what we have right now,” Leath said. “There’s still time to improve.”