Blue Demons look to conference play following Chicago Cup


Mary Grace Blake

DePaul huddles together during their game against UIC at the Chicago Cup Invitational on Saturday.

Coming in with a three-game win streak, DePaul volleyball looked to make it six wins in a row ahead of Chicago Cup, but a tough task stood in their way. 

This marked the fourth consecutive season that the Chicago Cup has been the final send off for the teams involved before individual conference play begins. 

After last week’s impressive sweep at DePaul Invitational, the Blue Demons traveled a short five and a half miles to this season’s host of the Chicago Cup, the University of Illinois Chicago. Here, they met with local Chicago teams like the Northwestern Wildcats and the Loyola Ramblers. 

The Blue Demons were faced with a challenge early. They opened the Cup on Friday Sept 16 against Northwestern, who came in with only one loss. 

Head coach Marie Zidek believes her team is well-prepared and ready to go up against tough teams. 

“I think we are battle tested,” Zidek said. “[In] our preseason, we have battled [high-quality] teams that play really good volleyball.” 

With that preseason experience, DePaul picked up where they left off last week. They stood their ground in the first set. DePaul messed with the flow of Northwestern’s offense in a back-and-forth set. The Blue Demons ultimately came away with a 25-23 win. 

Fortunes changed for the next three sets. As the Wildcats got more comfortable, they showed they were the better team. The Blue Demons had a hard time against Northwestern junior setter Alexa Rousseau, whose left-handed ability allowed for unexpected setter dumps and kills that the Blue Demons weren’t prepared for. 

“Against Northwestern, we battled, and they were a little bit better in the long run,” Zidek said. “I just reminded my team we are battle tested, and we can close out sets as well.” 

The Blue Demons had to quickly put the loss behind them and start fresh for the next match against the Ramblers. 

Getting back to their winning ways, the Blue Demons looked like themselves again against Loyola. Junior Jill Pressly led with 17 kills and was second with 10 digs. 

Pressly’s consistent play and threat on the offense opened windows for other Blue Demon hitters to duplicate the same success Pressly had. 

“It really allows other hitters on our team to be able to get up and take their own swings,” Pressly said. “[Throughout] the match, I know we had a lot of people open at the net, so it gave them the opportunity to find themselves and I think it really allows our team to become more diverse.” 

DePaul was able to win the first set 25-17 against the Ramblers to put themselves ahead early. After dropping a nail biting second set, the Blue Demons had some players step up big-time, leading them to a 3-1 match victory. 

Senior Bailey Nelson was a force on the attacking end, along with stabilizing an effective block at the net. She finished the match with 11 kills and three blocks. 

“It is just going out and doing the best I can,” Nelson said. “Obviously it’s my last year, so I just want to have the best year that I can have. So having that mindset that my time is running out, I just have to use every opportunity and capitalize on it.” 

Zidek did some switching around in the lineup in the later sets against Loyola and had junior Julia Nagy playing back-row rotation, which led to her two aces in the set. 

The result was not the same against UIC for the Blue Demons. The recurring theme of DePaul winning the first set played out again in this match, but the all-around performance from the Flames was too much for DePaul. They fell three sets to one in the final match of the Chicago Cup. 

“UIC plays very rhythmic volleyball,” Zidek said. “They play fast, and they have fun. They have no fear and have a good setter that has both of their outside hitters hot right.” 

As the schedule now shifts to Big East play, the Blue Demons look to use this gained experience and apply it towards a very competitive conference that opens next week. 

The Blue Demons will travel to Milwaukee on Wednesday, Sept. 21 to play against the No. 21 ranked team in the country, the Marquette Golden Eagles. 

DePaul will open at McGrath-Phillips Arena on Friday, Sept. 23 with their Big East home-opener when they host the Butler Bulldogs. 

Connect with Preston Zbrosczcyk: @PrestonZbroszc1 | [email protected]