Volleyball loses five-set heartbreaker

The saying goes that a team has to lose in order to learn how to win. If that’s true, then the DePaul women’s volleyball team has a lot of learning to do following a devastating five-set loss to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay on Wednesday. DePaul held a two-sets-to-nothing lead, but lost the next three sets in one of the most agonizing losses in recent memory.

Third-year head coach Nadia Edwards was complimentary of her team’s performance, but was disappointed about the lackluster finish. “We just lost our focus and I think we lost a little bit of the consistency that we had earlier on in the match,” said Edwards.

DePaul (5-10) lost a fourth consecutive match, but it was the Blue Demons who had the upper hand early on. Through two sets, the Blue Demons had a superb 35 percent attack rate and were more aggressive than Green Bay (9-6). They also had 40 total kills to Green Bay’s 29.

Then, things began to unravel. DePaul led for parts of the third set, but the team was undone by a miserable 2.3 percent attack rate. Green Bay jumped at the opportunity and extended the match by winning the third set 25-23.

DePaul never regained the momentum it had built up at the beginning. The Blue Demons came out flat in the fourth set and dropped 25-18. Green Bay completed the comeback with a dominant 15-13 win in the fifth and final set.

It was the first time that DePaul had lost a match when winning the first two sets in almost two years. The Blue Demons fell to 1-2 in five-set matches this season.

“In sets one and two we were functioning on all cylinders. Offensively we were getting great ball control. But in sets three, four and five, it kind of dropped off a little bit,” said Edwards.

Despite the loss, there was some good news. Senior Rachel Aumann had perhaps the finest match of her career, tallying a personal best 20 kills.

“It’s exciting. But it was a tough loss, so it’s kind of a bittersweet moment,” said Aumann.

Aumann was particularly effective in the first set, with eight kills to lead all players. She was the first DePaul player to record 20 kills in a match since Amy Lanski’s 22 in 2011. Lanski, a sophomore, has been sidelined for most of the season with a knee injury.

There is still a lot to like about the makeup of this Blue Demons squad. Coming off of a disappointing 7-22 campaign last year, Aumann and star Auburn transfer Vesela Zapryanova have helped lead the team to nearly as many wins as they produced in 2011. Aumann said that team camaraderie has been a focal point and will help with rebounding from the loss to Green Bay.

“We’re a really close team off the court and that helps us bring it when we’re on the court. When we’re all cheering and laughing, you know we’re most successful. The cheering is great, the bench gets involved, and it will really help in motivating us for our next match,” Aumann said.

It’s imperative that DePaul finds a way to break its recent losing streak, because their final 13 games are against conference opponents. Even though her team has hit a rough patch, coach Edwards is not panicking.

“We’re definitely going to learn a lesson from this one and stay hungry until the end of the year. Everyone has to play their role to the best of their ability. If they do that, we’ll really come together as a team,” said Edwards.

“We just have to put this behind us and watch some game film and prepare for the rest of the Big East teams on our schedule,” said Aumann.

No matter how the rest of the season plays out, there’s no question that this DePaul team has vastly improved over last year’s team. If they can rebound from their demoralizing loss to Green Bay, it could be their most impressive accomplishment of all.