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DePaul Invitational Belongs to Clean-Sweep Blue Demons
Colleen Smith and Natalie Rizzo were Tournament MVP and All-Tournament Team selections, respectively, as the Blue Demons took the title at the 2013 DePaul Invitational

Colleen Smith and Natalie Rizzo were Tournament MVP and All-Tournament Team selections, respectively, as the Blue Demons took the title at the 2013 DePaul Invitational

Aug 31, 2013

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CHICAGO - Colleen Smith was named Tournament MVP in a standout first weekend as a Blue Demon and the DePaul volleyball team cruised through a third straight 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-12) win on Saturday night, defeating McNeese State to take the DePaul Invitational title at McGrath-Phillips Arena.

Off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2004, DePaul continued to play clean with only 10 errors in its nightcap. Over the weekend's three matches, the Blue Demons connected on a .350 hitting percentage - a big reason why Smith took home the hardware.

In her most productive match of the weekend, the sophomore setter spread the ball all around the court as five players had at least seven kills in just three sets of work. Recording 45 assists, Smith led the Blue Demons to attack percentages of .474 and .481 in the first and third sets, respectively.

The Blue Demons' second representative on the All-Tournament Team, Natalie Rizzo, continued to play smart in the middle. Against the Cowgirls, the senior middle landed seven kills on a .375 hitting percentage - she had 21 kills and hit .450 for the weekend, committing just three errors.

Senior captain Vesela Zapryanova continued her standout play on Saturday as well, leading all players with 14 kills on a career-high .522 attack percentage and notching her first double-double of the year with 16 digs.

On the defensive end, Allyson Rooks got under 10 balls as the Blue Demons held McNeese State to a .178 attack percentage. The Blue Demons also out-blocked their opponent for the third straight match, 9-4.

Sophomore Callie Huebener (six kills) and Zapryanova (five kills) got things rolling in the opening frame as the Blue Demons held off a feisty McNeese State team that kept the match tied until 9-9.

Breaking the deadlock, Rizzo put the Blue Demons up for good, 10-9, with a kill from Smith as the team eventually built a six-point lead, 19-13, on a Huebener bullet. After a Cowgirl timeout, DePaul traded points with McNeese the rest of the way to take the set, 25-19.

Zapryanova continued to produce, adding five kills on eight swings in a hotly contested second set. McNeese State opened with three straight points before the Blue Demons' preseason All-BIG EAST selection dropped in a point and added two more aces, sandwiched by a Cowgirl error, to give DePaul a 4-3 advantage.

In a set that was tied 11 times, McNeese State battled all the way through forcing a DePaul timeout as the team trailed 20-19 late. Back-to-back kills by redshirt freshman Randi Leath helped the Blue Demons reclaim the lead, 21-20, and - though the score would get knotted up three more times - eventually take the set, 25-23.

After a too-close-for-comfort second set, the Blue Demons hunkered down in third. Committing just two errors, the team ripped the ball at a .481 clip to run away with a 25-12 decision and the tournament title.

With a successful first weekend in the books, DePaul faces another long tournament next weekend at the Drake Invitational. Beginning the tourney with a Friday, Sept. 6 match versus the Bulldogs, the Blue Demons will also face South Dakota State on Saturday at 11 a.m. before capping the tournament with a 5 p.m. meeting against Eastern Illinois.

Match Notes: Colleen Smith set a career record with 45 assists on her way to tournament MVP honors... senior Natalie Rizzo hit .450 for the weekend en route to DePaul Invitational All-Tournament Team honors for the second straight year... Vesela Zapryanova connected for a career-high .522 hitting percentage (14-2-23)... Zapryanova also recorded her ninth career double-double at DePaul with 14 kills and 16 digs... Zapryanova's four aces tied a career-high mark (third time with four aces)... DePaul hit .380 as a team, its best hitting percentage since Oct. 25, 2011 when the Blue Demons hit .390 versus Chicago State at McGrath-Phillips Arena...

2013 All-Tournament Team

MVP
Colleen Smith, DePaul
All-Tournament Team
Natalie Rizzo, DePaul
Malina Sanchez, McNeese State
Valeria Desiderio, Chicago State
Annie Russian, Providence