Volleyball set to dig deep in 2012

DePaul volleyball’s efforts of “digging” themselves out the Big East cellar this year is underway, as the Blue Demons have already started the year 3-3, four wins shy of last year’s season total. With seven new players and seven returners, the Blue Demons have credited the energy and chemistry for their rapid improvement.

“Going all in all out together,” has been the mantra senior Rachel Aumann and the rest of the team have instilled in practice and games this season. The team has a strong bond this season on and off the court according to Aumann, the strongest it’s been since her arrival in 2009.

“This has been a team that has had the most chemistry, even though we have a lot of new players,” said Aumann, the team’s captain and lone senior. Aumann, an outside hitter, finished second on the team last season in kills with 175, and is looking forward to continuing her leadership on the court.

“I’ve had a captain position for a couple of years now,” said Aumann. “Being the lone senior, I want to lead a good example for the incoming players and returners.”

Aumann and the Blue Demon returners have seen nothing but improvement over the last few years, finishing 4 -26 in 2010 and 7 -22 in 2011. It might be safe to say the Blue Demons see themselves going in the right direction.

Head coach Nadia Edwards believes this year’s team has the experience and skill set to be successful, and that in order to achieve positive results it will have to be a team effort.

“The quicker the team can come together, and play for each other, the better that they’ll be,” said Edwards.

Edwards’ new players this season include transfers Laura Witt (UT San Antonio) and Vesela Zapryanova (Auburn) who each bring top-notch experience to Lincoln Park.

“The transfers bring international and domestic experience at the collegiate level,” said Edwards. “Our true freshmen have all come from clubs across the nation and have competed for high school state championships and AU state championships, so the winning mentality is in us. Our goal is to come together and be dominant.”

Last week, the Blue Demons competed at the UT Martin Invitational in Martin, Tenn. and finished in second, going 2-1. DePaul defeated UT Martin on their home court in a thrilling 3-2 victory that may have foreshadowed DePaul’s road potential.

“It was fun feeding off their crowd. They were getting into it and we were using that as fuel for us,” said Aumann, who finished with four kills that game.

Zapryanova finished with a career-high 20 kills and 19 digs against UT Martin, placing her on the All-Tournament team. Junior Allyson Rooks joined Zapryanova on the list after tallying 16 digs against the Skyhawks.

The Blue Demons will have an extended stay in Chicago, capped by the three-day Rambler Challenge, hosted by Loyola Chicago. DePaul will face USC Upstate Sept. 14 at 11 a.m., then have a two-match day Sept. 15 facing Chicago State at 2 p.m. and Red Line rival Loyola at 7 p.m.

With Big East play about two weeks away, the Blue Demons are using these tournaments to prepare themselves for a long and grueling conference schedule.

“We have nine matches at [home] and we have a different flavor this year,” said Edwards. “We’re excited and have a lot of energy. When the girls generate energy on the court that’s one thing, but when the crowd comes in and generates it, it takes them to a different level, in terms of playing, celebration and just intensity in general.”