Volleyball goes 1-2 over three-match DePaul Invitational

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The Blue Demons started their 2012 campaign Friday night, taking on instate rival Eastern Illinois at the DePaul Invitational. The Panthers, fresh off a disappointing campaign last season (11-20, 3-8) brought their A-game, taking the air out of the Blue Demons’ sails early, winning the match 3-1.

Eastern took control early on, winning the first two frames 25-20, 25-19, setting the tempo throughout the match. Most of DePaul’s scoring efforts were turned away by Panther Stephanie Wallace, who finished with a team high 25 digs. Emily Franklin carried the Panthers offensively with 15 kills. The Blue Demons showed life in the third set, squeaking by the Panthers 25 -22 and pushing the match to a fourth set.

DePaul started the fourth set like a prize fight, trading points left and right to tie the score at six apiece. This proved to be the most exciting set for the Blue Demons, who played fearlessly to the end. Like most matches last season, coming back from a deficit seemed to fit into DePaul’s comfort zone, as they went on a 7-3 run after trailing the Panthers 15 -10.

The DePaul run was led by freshman Abby Fleener and sophomore Laura Witt who dismantled the Panthers defense. Fleener powered DePaul’s offense with four crucial kills in the set, but not without the help of Witt, adding 10 assists. Despite the Blue Demons electric effort, they were never able to climb all the way back, losing the final set 25 -22.

The Blue Demons come back Saturday for their second and third matches of the DePaul Invitational, taking on Indiana State at 2 p.m. and Butler at 7 p.m.

In the second game of their three-game schedule for the Invitational, the Blue Demons triumphed in a five-set thriller, taking down Indiana State 3-2 (18-25, 25-21, 21-25, 25-22, 15-11) for their first win of the season.

DePaul (1-1) was powered by its offense, hitting .284 (66-18-169) and was paced by Natalie Rizzo’s .560 (14-0-25) attack percentage. Callie Huebener contributed 15 kills and 12 digs, recording her first collegiate double-double. Vesela Zapryanova also hit double digits in kills with 15, adding nine digs.

The Blue Demons once again pushed their opponent, this time the Invitational’s champion Butler Bulldogs, to a five-set match, eventually losing 3-2 (17-25, 25-20, 25-18, 14-25, 10-15). Huebener had her second consecutive double-double, scoring 14 kills and 12 digs, adding four block assists. DePaul (1-2) displayed a strong defensive effort in the evening match with a season-high 62 digs, led by freshman libero Tyler Graham with 22 digs.

Butler’s Morgan Peterson, named tournament MVP, registered 42 assists, five digs and two block assists. Natalie Rizzo was DePaul’s sole representative on the All-Tournament Team.
Next up for the Blue Demons is the two-day UT Martin Invitational, where they will play Wright State, Troy and UT Martin Aug. 31-Sept. 1.