DePaul volleyball splits weekend games against Providence and Creighton

After losing two straight games in conference play against the University of Connecticut and Marquette University, the DePaul volleyball team bounced back with a 3-1 victory against Big East opponent Providence College on Friday night, continuing their recent home court success. This is the second time DePaul has beat Providence this season, winning on Oct. 10 3-0.

The Blue Demons struck first in the opening set with two kills by sophomore outside hitter Jill Pressly and junior pin hitter Bailey Nelson, and numerous service errors gave the Blue Demons a small lead. However, Providence came back with vengeance, keeping the set close with a 18-18 tie prior to the first timeout of the game. The set stayed relatively close, but Friars went on a 7-3 run to take the first set 25-21.

The second set was a completely different story. Providence picked up where they left off, striking first giving the Friars a 2-1 start. Behind the leadership of Pressly and senior middle blocker Donna Brown, the Blue Demons took over, going on a 8-3 run before Providence called it’s first timeout. The timeout did not slow the Blue Demons down, only sparking the team to go on a 15-5 run to close out the second set 25-10. From this moment on, the team didn’t look back.

The third set was relatively close in the beginning. DePaul struck the opening of the third set first thanks to a kill by Nelson. But Providence came back behind the leadership of Maryanne Boyle, tying the game at 14 a piece before the first timeout of the set. Behind Nelson leading the charge, she contributed to an 11-6 run to give the Blue Demons a 25-19 win to claim the third set, posing them to potentially finish the job in the fourth set.

The fourth set was the icing on the cake. The Blue Demons picked up right where they left off with a kill by junior middle blocker Sasha Bolla giving the team a quick 1-0 lead. The team continued to put their gas on the pedal, going up 13-5 and 19-11 between the two timeouts called by Providence. The team ultimately won the fourth set 25-17.

The team finished with 55 kills on 53 assists. Head coach Marie Zidek believed the key to their win was through their role players.

“We had some of our starters that were really struggling to find their game and so we had a couple of role players off the bench come in and step up and make some big plays,” Zidek said. “At the end of the day it was a team win, but those role players came in and really did their jobs and that allowed us to continue to build momentum.”

Brown and Nelson finished the game with 21 kills combined. Zidek praised them for their efforts in realing the team to victory.

“Brown and Bailey had career nights,” Zidek said. “They really did.”

Providence played a more aggressive style, picking up defensive balls. Nelson emphasized that the style of play threw them off a little bit, becoming a challenge for them throughout a game.

“I think their style of play took us off guard a little bit,” Nelson said. “They have really good servers as well so our service team had some ups and downs but by the end of the game everything was on point and we were doing exactly what we needed to do.”

Brown agrees with Nelson’s sentiment, but also thinks it was more than just Providence’s style of play that caused problems. It was their unforced errors that contributed to the struggles as well.

“At the beginning of the first set, I think some of our unforced errors were issues that we dealt with, but we just dialed in and kind of focused on the controllables and got through it and played well after that,” Brown said.

With this game being the second go-around against Providence in conference play, Coach Zidek admitted that these games are going to be tougher with opponents having the ability to change game plans and scouting to better prepare for them. As the team is preparing for conference play soon, Zidek discussed the adjustments the team needs to make in order to be better prepared for the late season.

“We got to use the block more to score,” Zidek said. “Teams have us scouted a little bit better. They know our setter’s tendencies, so as a hitter in that situation, it is like being a receiver in the football game having to catch a ball in a tight window. Windows get tighter as the season goes on. People are not going to leave you open all year. That is how it is in volleyball too. We have to use the block more to our advantage instead of swinging away from it.”

The Blue Demons returned to Phillips-McGrath Arena on Saturday night to take on No. 24 Creighton University but fell 3-0 to the team who is tied for first in the Big East standings with Marquette University.

Set one was tight throughout, with DePaul and Creighton going back and forth with points. While the Blue Demons never trailed by more than three points, Creighton always maintained their lead with strong offense that the Blue Demons could not counter. The set finished with DePaul falling 25-21 to the Blue Jays.

Creighton came out flying in set two and scored the first three points before the Blue Demons were able to get on the board with a kill by right-side hitter Emma Price. The Blue Jays were able to pull ahead early in the set and the Blue Demons were never able to catch up.

Multiple coach’s challenges from either bench shifted the momentum as well and Creighton continued to put pressure on the Blue Demons.

And while DePaul’s defense looked scrappy at times, they were able to respond to Creighton’s hits but mistakes by the offense kept the Blue Demons from catching up. As a result, Creighton was able to take a strong lead and the Blue Demons dropped the set 25-16.

“We’re always good on the harder hitters and just absorbing the hard attacks,” libero Rachel Krasowski said. “I was really proud of my defense and the defense of my teammates as well, just got to focus up and sharpen up on some other things as well.”

The third set was much the same, with Creighton flying from the first point. While DePaul seemed to hang in with them at the beginning, the Blue Jays were able to pull ahead fast after hitting errors by the Blue Demons set them back.

The offense struggled throughout the three sets for the Blue Demons. The team hit the ball out of play or were not able to get a hit around a Creighton blocker, which put more pressure on DePaul’s defense.

“I think our hitting and our offense had more errors than we anticipated, so coming in Monday, we’re going to work on those, work on our shots,” Pressly said. “But, we understand that if there’s a big block in front of us, we got to work around it and so I think we have that going into the next game next weekend.”

The Blue Demons had 25 attack errors throughout the three sets and were also not able to come up with big blocks when needed to stop Creighton’s offense.

“They’re a high-ranked team and so coming into this, we kind of had nothing to lose,” Pressly said. “I think we took a lot out of it. We’re going to come in on Monday foot on the pedal, ready for the next game, ready to take on the Big East Championship hopefully, that’s our goal, that’s our mindset right now, so we’re just going to cruise through these next few weeks and hopefully come out on top.”

The Blue Demons now have a record of 13-11 overall and 6-6 in conference play. The team travels to Queens, New York on Friday to take on a powerful St. John’s University team, who the Blue Demons narrowly defeated 3-2 on Oct. 16.