DePaul volleyball’s offense dazzles in weekend sweeps


Kiersten Riedford

DePaul middle blocker Donna Brown tipping the ball over St. John’s blockers on Saturday.

After struggling at home, DePaul volleyball dominated in front of their home crowd last weekend with wins against Seton Hall University and St. John’s University for their first two home wins against Big East opponents.

The team began with a matchup against Seton Hall on Friday night. The Blue Demons were coming off a 3-0 win over Providence College on Oct. 10 but were 1-4 at home entering the game.

Set one was tight throughout, with both teams never pulling ahead more than three points from one another. Kills from both sides of the net ensured that neither team had the lead for long, while blocks by middle hitter Donna Brown and DePaul’s defense helped keep Seton Hall’s offense at bay.

While Seton Hall was able to keep up with the Blue Demons in the match, it was DePaul who managed to pull ahead late in the set. The Blue Demons finished set one with a score of 25-23 over Seton Hall off a tip by outside hitter Jill Pressly that the Pirates could not defend.

The Blue Demons were able to settle after the first set’s tight outcome and came out flying in set two. The team dominated from the very beginning, scoring the first four points unanswered. While Seton Hall eventually recovered and began to challenge the team, the Blue Demons never trailed and won the set by a score of 25-19.

“I just told them to sustain,” head coach Marie Zidek said. “Seton Hall is a really good defensive team, and they have a lot of different weapons, and we knew that just by creating extra offensive opportunities with our defense, that we would probably be able to gain momentum as the match went on, so it was just about sustaining and creating opportunities and not feeling like we needed to hit the perfect shot all the time.”

Brown was a force at the net in the second set, and her blocks and kills came up big in key moments when Seton Hall’s offense was threatening. DePaul’s defense stood strong when Seton Hall’s 6-foot-4 right side hitter, Emilee Turner, challenged them offensively.

“I feel going into this game and this weekend, especially during practice this week, we really honed in on just focusing on the team across the net and just working on ourselves and then bettering the ball so our offense can be as hot as it was tonight,” libero Rachel Krasowski said.

The third set was much the same, with DePaul flying from the very beginning. The offense was strong during the entire set, and the defense never let up when Seton Hall attempted to catch up with DePaul’s early lead.

The Blue Demons concluded the set with a score of 25-16 and a game final of 3-0 over Seton Hall for their first Big East win at home.

Brown led the team with 13 kills in the game, while Pressly had 12. Krasowski led with 18 digs.

“October is a time of year where everybody has a target on their back, no matter how good you are,” Krasowski said. “So, just to show that we came out that hot and swept a team that [is] pretty good just says a lot.”

The Blue Demons returned to McGrath-Phillips Arena on Saturday night to take on No. 57 ranked St. John’s and defeated them 3-2 after a game full of ups and downs. The win was DePaul’s first win over St. John’s since September of 2017.

The Blue Demons started the game shakily and looked like an entirely different team than the night before. The defense struggled against a strong St. John’s’ offense, while DePaul’s own offense could not keep their hits in bounds.

However, a shift occurred halfway through the match, and the Blue Demons began to look like the team they were against Seton Hall. The offense had a new fire to them, and it rattled the St. John’s defense. As the end of the set approached, the Blue Demons scored nine-straight points and finished the set with a score of 25-21 over St. John’s.

The Blue Demons struggled in set two and looked like the team that began in set one. They were not able to make the same comeback they did in the previous set and fell 25-12.

There was another definite shift in the Blue Demons entering set three. They dominated from the very beginning, which allowed them to pull away and take an early lead that they kept for the rest of the set.

St. John’s challenged the team at times and hitting errors from DePaul allowed them to get close. However, the offense stood strong, and big hits from Brown and Pressly, along with outside hitter Hanna Karl and right-side hitter Emma Price, helped the Blue Demons keep their lead and finish the set off 25-19.

Following the third set, St. John’s came back with a fire in the fourth. Their dominant offense, along with costly defensive errors from the Blue Demons, allowed St. John’s to win the set 25-18, forcing a fifth set to determine a winner.

The final set was back and forth from the outset. Both teams were tied until DePaul pulled ahead, but St. John’s was never fully out of it and never trailed by more than three points. However, DePaul’s offense sparked with help from Karl and Price, who had five kills each. Karl finished the game leading the team with 16 kills, while Price followed with 13.

“My passing wasn’t great today, and that’s normally one thing that’s pretty good about my game,” Karl said. “I knew I needed to make it up on some other end for our team, and if I was going to make it up, it was going to be in the fifth set, so I knew I had to make some big moves and come through with my team.”

Karl led the game with 16 kills, while Price followed with 13.

DePaul’s defense looked shaky at times, but also faced off against the strongest arms in the conference in St. John’s right-side hitter, Rachele Rastelli, who finished the game with 27 kills. Being able to hold her off enough to let DePaul’s own offense shine can give the Blue Demons the motivation needed to push for the playoffs.

“It’s October, the season’s starting to get long, and so, on some days, your game may leave you,” Zidek said. “It’s really about being able to weather the ebbs and the flows, get yourself into that fifth set, and then put yourself in position to make that one play you need to make to win the match, and that’s exactly what happened.”

The Blue Demons are now 5-3 in conference play and are fourth in the Big East conference. The team travels to Milwaukee on Oct. 20 to take on Marquette University, who is at the top of the conference with a 7-1 record.