Excellent finish, positive future fuel improving Blue Demons volleyball

It just keeps getting better for the DePaul women’s volleyball team. After a tough stretch in the middle of the season, coach Nadia Edwards and her young squad closed out the year by winning three of their final six games and setting the tone for unprecedented future success.

The team finished 10-18 in 2012, improving on a 7-22 mark from the previous season and giving DePaul its most wins since 2004. Most impressive was their superb play in the Big East conference. They won five conference games, the same number that they won from 2009-2011.

“I think we’ve definitely laid the foundation to get better and to build on,” said Edwards.

2012 was a special year for Edwards, who landed Auburn transfer Vesela Zapryanova and coached one of the youngest teams in the Big East. Zapryanova led the team with 350 kills and stood out among many great players in the conference as one of the top talents. In addition, the junior will be asked to be the leader of a team that was made up of seven freshman and sophomores.

“From the beginning of the season we knew that we had a young group coming in,” said Edwards. “It’s a testament to us for being able to grow throughout the season and put ourselves in a position to finish strong.”

There’s no question that the team grew and improved as the season moved along. They had a statement win at Villanova in mid-October, which set the stage for a furious finish.

“It was exciting how we had the ability to beat Villanova on the road. We started showing we could beat teams that were above the middle of the pack,” said Edwards.

Edwards also pointed to games against Louisville, Marquette, and Penn State, three of the better programs in the country, as matches that helped define the season.

“Statistically, you may look at those matches and see that we went 0-3. But we had a stellar match against Penn State. We’ve played several matches against Top 25 teams. But I think in general, I can honestly say that our group came to play in each and every one of those big games,” she said.

The team’s tendency to play its hardest in huge spots came to a head in the final match on Senior Day against Rutgers. The Blue Demons endured an agonizing loss in the second set, a 32-34 setback that proved to be the longest set of the season. But the team rallied behind senior Rachel Aumann and won the final two sets, 25-21 and 25-16. Aumann scored the final point of the game, capping her college career with a moment she’ll likely never forget.

It was a special season for the Blue Demons volleyball team. They haven’t made it to the top yet, but the pieces are in place.

“This team doesn’t compete with any fear. It’s very exciting,” said Edwards.

With several players returning next season, there’s nowhere to go but up for this entertaining and talented group of players.