Blue Demons sweep Villanova in dominant fashion


Will Kleihege

Junior middle blocker Sara Griffith (20) celebrates with teammates in DePaul’s win over Villanova on Friday.

Entering Friday night’s match against the Villanova Wildcats, the Blue Demons had their eyes set on snapping a two-game losing streak. Tied with Villanova for eighth in the Big East Conference, DePaul quickly jumped out to an early lead but were never able to pull away.

After taking an 18-15 lead and in control of the momentum, the Wildcats took a much-needed timeout. They immediately responded by taking a 19-18 lead, before DePaul responded in kind, going up 22-20. Tied at 22, the Blue Demons were finally able to put the match away, scoring three quick points.

Junior outside hitter Jill Pressly led the scoring for the Blue Demons with six kills, while freshmen pin hitter Taylor Underwood and sophomore middle blocker Aly Kindelberger added three kills apiece.

The beginning of the second set was eerily similar to the first, with DePaul jumping out to a quick lead. Yet, this time around the Blue Demons were able to build upon their lead.

“We made a serving sub switch,” head coach Marie Zidek said. “We had Sierra Ellison enter the match, and she provided a nice spark for us from the service line. It put Villanova in a lot of difficulty with their first swing offense, and we were able to dig a lot of easier balls when she was back behind the service line.”

Villanova took the first point, but DePaul quickly took control of the driver’s seat and never looked back. They scored five straight points to go up 5-1 and were able to grow the lead to 16-9. 

A few plays later, Villanova took a timeout in an attempt to regain momentum but to no avail. The Blue Demons went on to win the second set 25-19 in dominant fashion.

“First set we made a few unforced errors, not what we normally do,” Pressly said. “In the second set, we said we needed to tighten things up, get the errors fixed and make sure everyone’s doing their job.”

With their backs against the wall, Villanova scored the first three points of the third set and took an early 6-2 lead. Unfazed, the Blue Demons scored five straight to take a 7-6 lead. From there it was a back-and-forth affair with neither team backing down.

“Momentum is huge,” sophomore setter Maggie Jones said. “I think when you are down like that [6-2], you just have to work on staying calm and getting the momentum back as fast as you can.”

Up 15-14, DePaul scored a quick point, but Villanova head coach Josh Steinbach challenged the call, which was upheld. The failed challenge marked a changing of momentum as DePaul immediately took a 20-15 lead. Down 22-18, Villanova took a timeout and scored two straight points, but DePaul slammed the door shut, winning the third set 25-20.

Pressly led the scoring for DePaul with 19 kills, while senior right-side hitter Bailey Nelson also finished in double digits with 14.  

“When it comes to attacking, it depends on where the blockers are,” Pressly said. “Sometimes I’ll go where the blockers aren’t just to find open seams… I’m just trying to find different ways to score and keep my opponents on their toes, so they don’t know where I’m going.”

Behind the scenes of DePaul’s unrelenting attack was Jones who was facilitating the ball with ease.

“I’m just trying to get all my hitters involved as much as I can,” Jones said. “I like to look at the blocking matchups across the net, and if there is a weak blocker, you want to attack it. Then, making sure to switch up the play calls so the defense doesn’t see the same play twice.”

Full of confidence, DePaul was able to build upon their momentum, sweeping Georgetown 3-0 on Saturday evening. The Blue Demons will be in action again next Saturday as they travel to take on Connecticut at 12 p.m. CST.