The Student News Site of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student News Site of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student News Site of DePaul University

The DePaulia

2023 fall sports preview: What to look for, what to expect

Courtesy of DePaul athletics Instagram
Rachel Krasowski, DePaul women’s volleyball libero and senior, holds two mini volleyballs to her eyes at the Sept. 7 game against Northern Illinois University. Before playing, the volleyball team threw mini volleyballs into the crowd.

DePaul’s fall sports had one of their most impressive recruiting summers on paper. As students return to campus, they are realizing the potential for a historic fall season.

DePaul volleyball finished 10-20 last season. The women’s soccer team was 3-12-1, while the men’s team finished with more ties than wins at 4-6-7. The need for improvement is as vital now as it has ever been.

Marie Zidek, who is entering her sixth season as DePaul volleyball’s head coach, remained confident about the team’s improvement at DePaul’s fall sports media day.

“This team really is hungry for postseason,” Zidek said. “We want to get back to the Big East Tournament, the Big East Championship, and we want to parlay that into December volleyball.”

DePaul volleyball is returning 13 players from last year’s team, which Zidek said makes them “very much a win-by-committee team.” She also said the new additions to the team will have an “immediate impact.”

The women’s volleyball team started with matches on the road against South Dakota and Iowa State, both of which are NCAA Tournament-caliber teams. 

The women’s soccer team is bringing in 14 new players (12 freshmen). Despite that, their only loss in the first five games was to seventh-ranked Alabama, notably better than their 1-4 start in 2022. This start gives Blue Demon fans hope that the team will quickly find their identity among an influx of newcomers.

The Blue Demons began their season on a road stretch, including the match against seventh-ranked Alabama, which they lost 2-0.

“I think it was a great opportunity for our young group to play SEC [Southeastern Conference] soccer at a big stadium in front of a pretty big crowd against a team who made the Final Four last year,” O’Brien said. “We showed a ton of determination and heart and grit, and I think it will only pay dividends for us.”

The men’s soccer team is returning veteran leaders Michael Anderson and All-Big East goalkeeper Gandhi Cruz. Still, an impressive recruiting class has further boosted expectations for the program. In just his first game, newcomer midfielder and junior transfer Callum Watts nailed the game-winning header in minute 82 against Lindenwood to cap off a thrilling home opener at Wish Field on August 24. Watts received a Big East Honor Roll appearance for the season’s first week.

“This is our most complete group I’ve had since I’ve been here and definitely the group that I think will reflect DePaul soccer in the brightest light since I’ve been here,” men’s soccer head coach Mark Plotkin said. “It’s the deepest group, the most collective group, and you can see it in training. There seems to be something different about this group.”

Plotkin, who is entering his sixth season coaching his alma mater, also addressed the Big East’s competition level this season.

“Being in arguably the most competitive soccer conference in the country with three teams in the top 25 … I think we have a group that can really compete at this level this year,” Plotkin said.

Cross-country head coach Geoff Wayton said that his focus was improving what was already a massive success last season.

“On the women’s side, we’re returning everybody from a team that historically might’ve been the best team we’ve ever had,” Wayton said.

DePaul students are already familiar with graduate student Olivia Borowiak’s dominance during her career, which includes seven school records. Senior Meghan Dieball is continuing her rapid mile improvement, finishing with a 4:49 last season, which marks a 36-second improvement from her high school record. Look for these runners to continue their improvement in their first meet this Friday.

The men’s cross-country team lost four of their best athletes from last year’s squad but also brought in two key freshmen, Jesse Gamboa and Mason Krieg.

“Those are two young men, although they’re freshmen, that could help us out immediately,” Wayton said.

Look out for midseason transfer Jacob Holmes, who Wayton says has personal records that are “on par with the best runners we’ve ever had at DePaul.”

The men’s cross-country team had their highest place ever in both the Big East and regionals last year.

Wayton and his fellow fall sports head coaches at DePaul seem confident and ready to make noise in the conference.

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