The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

‘No Excuses’: Despite construction, DePaul volleyball rallies for spring season

Jaydi Vasquez
DePaul volleyball’s front-line practices blocking at a team practice Thursday, April 11, at McGrath-Phillips Arena. The court pictured is the only space available for the team’s use during the spring season.

An immense, temporary white sheet that splits McGrath-Phillips Arena exudes the aroma of a carpenter’s workshop as DePaul’s volleyball team attempts to run a team practice. 

On the other side of this sheet is a construction project that is part of DePaul Athletics’ 5-year Strategic Plan, specifically the “refurbishment of the Sullivan Athletic Center,” which houses the arena.

During this transition period, DePaul volleyball still has a spring season to play. Spring season is an opportunity for the players to tune their individual games, with much more one-on-one time and small group practice to target specific tactics and skills.

One would expect the construction in McGrath-Phillips Arena to hinder this growth, as DePaul is used to practicing on two courts. Head coach Marie Zidek, however, sees it as a blessing in disguise because of the closeness of her players.

“We have the mantra, ‘no excuses,’ so whether we have one court for practice or two courts, or whether the game is sold out or five people are in the stands, there’s no excuses. We want to go out and we want to win matches.”

On April 6, DePaul played a round-robin competition in Fort Wayne, Indiana, against Michigan, Toledo and Michigan State after facing Loyola Chicago and Illinois in previous weeks. Senior libero Rachel Krasowski said the day reminded her of club volleyball, where five to six hours of games were often played in one day, but the experience enriched the team’s chemistry and future success.

“I think it was really necessary for our team to grow and build and see what type of competition we match up against,” Krasowski said. “I thought that was eye-opening in a way that just makes us want to continue to grow and get better for the season.”

Freshman defensive specialist and libero Nora Mannion, who said last fall season was like being thrown into the fire, saw the round-robin as a way to showcase this individual growth.

“It tested our bodies a lot and our stamina, but we ended up finishing really strong, which was good,” she said. “I think it was a good experience for all of us.”

Zidek leads a program that has steadily improved over the last four years. After finishing third in the fall season standings, the team is near the top of the food chain in the Big East. She said the spring season allows DePaul to play high-level competition that challenges them more than ever without the factor of wins and losses counting towards conference standings.

“There’s this element right now where you go from 11th to seventh and seventh to fifth and fifth to third,” Zidek said. “Now, to go from third to first, it’s a totally different level of game needed, so we’ve wanted to challenge them with teams like Michigan and Illinois that were in Final Fours not too long ago.”

DePaul found their game fast, returning from the week off for spring break with only a week of practice before the round-robin. Zidek said she has been stressing physicality at the net and that her team showed up after a week off and executed.

“The team did a really nice job finding the game, finding out ball control, finding our attacks, all the things that we had been working on in the spring really bled into those competitions,” Zidek said. “Volleyball is a sport played above the net, and we really wanted to test our attackers and also our setters in our offense at being able to score around physical blockers.”

Zidek wants her team to show they are as good as any team in the country as they continue their climb to the NCAA tournament — a competition they haven’t qualified for since 2001. 

Though players like Krasowski have seen the loud noises from the construction as an irritant at times, the players have used it as an opportunity to be loud and practice hearing each other in loud environments.

“It’s just very interesting. We’ve practiced on one court before, but not like this,” Krasowski said. “It kind of replicates playing in an actual match. It’s really cool.”

Mannion, a freshman, has adjusted to the change and is excited to see the finished product as she enters her second season, which will begin in the fall when the players return after summer break.

“An important thing that volleyball teams need is the ability to adapt, and we really adapted with our limited gym space,” Mannion said. “We usually practice on two courts, but I think practicing with one actually has helped us come together even more. … I honestly think it might pay off and it’s just gonna be cool to see the entire transition of the entire gym when we come back in the fall.”

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