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Blue Demons Fight Back, Win Fourth Straight at Drake
Senior middle Natalie Rizzo landed 11 kills and hit .409 to help the Blue Demons to a fourth straight win.


Senior middle Natalie Rizzo landed 11 kills and hit .409 to help the Blue Demons to a fourth straight win.

Sep 6, 2013

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DES MOINES, Ia. - A dominant fifth set performance put to rest any notion of a hot start fading away as DePaul volleyball slammed the door on its fourth straight win, opening the Drake Invitational with a 3-2 (25-22, 26-28, 15-25, 25-16, 15-2) decision against the hosting Bulldogs on Friday night at the Knapp Center.

After taking the opening set, the Blue Demons found themselves staring at a 2-1 deficit -- mostly due to their own mistakes. Committing 26 errors through the matches' first three frames, DePaul proceeded to clean things up in a hurry and stormed back for its first five-set win since Sept. 1, 2012 at UT Martin.

DePaul hit .433 in a pivotal fourth set win and continued to produce through the deciding fifth, connecting at a .333 clip to claim the match by a 15-2 score. After mistakes littered the first three frames, the Blue Demons registered just four errors in their final two set wins.

With the outcome, the Blue Demons move to 4-0 for the first time since 2004 and have now won six straight matches dating back to 2012 -- the longest winning streak for the program since a 9-0 run in 2001.

The Bulldogs, victims of a gutsy comeback, dropped to 1-4 on the season despite a career night from Cassie Effken, who buried 17 balls and hit .452 while stuffing five Blue Demon attacks at the net.

Senior Vesela Zapryanova led the charge statistically for DePaul, recording her 11th career double-double with 15 kills and a career-high 26 digs.

Overall, four DePaul attackers reached double figures in kills. Led by Zapryanova's 15 kills, senior Natalie Rizzo and sophomores Callie Huebener and Abbie Fleener each added 11 apiece. Rizzo, who committed just two miscues in the match, wound up with a .409 hitting percentage -- the third time in four outings the senior middle has hit over .400.

Setter Colleen Smith paced the offense with 44 assists and added 15 digs for her first DePaul double-double, while the defense was supplemented by 23 digs by senior libero Allyson Rooks and another 12 by sophomore Tyler Graham.

At the net, DePaul held the edge, 12-9, in total blocks.

Drake hung tough in the opening stanza, keeping things close until 21-21 when the Blue Demons went on a 4-1 run to seal the set. After an attack error evened the score, kills by Rizzo and Huebener -- sandwiched by a Bulldog error -- quickly gave the Blue Demons a chance to clinch. A service error followed, making it 24-22 before Huebener closed the door with her seventh kill of the frame.

In set two, Drake led early before the Blue Demons rallied to tie the score, 11-11, on a Zapryanova bullet. Down 24-22 late in the contest, DePaul charged back again behind a Zapryanova kill and Smith ace to even the score at 24.

Drake would pull out the set, however, taking four-of-six points to snap the Blue Demons' 10-set winning streak.

The Bulldogs then hit .333 to take set four in convincing fashion, 25-15, and put DePaul on the precipice of defeat.

The Blue Demons switched it on in the fourth frame, however, after trailing 4-1 in the early stages. Battling back to tie the match at five on kills by Rizzo and Fleener, along with a pair of Drake errors, the Blue Demons began to pull away. A four-point swing put DePaul up 16-10 after points by Fleener and Rizzo, and the Blue Demons would not look back in a 25-16 win to clinch a fifth set.

Coming into the final frame on a high note, DePaul cruised to a 7-0 lead and led 11-2 when Drake called its final timeout. Four straight errors by the Bulldogs clinched the match out of the timeout, as DePaul hit .333 to Drake's -.368 to win the match.

The Blue Demons are back on the court twice tomorrow, facing South Dakota State first at 11:00 a.m. CT before meeting Eastern Illinois in a 5:00 p.m. nightcap.

Match Notes: DePaul improves to 6-0 all-time against Drake... the Blue Demons won in five sets for the first time since Sept. 1, 2012 at UT Martin... Zapryanova recorded a career-high 26 digs, the most by a Blue Demon since Rooks had 26 at Villanova on October 19, 2012... Zapryanova's 15-kill, 26-dig effort gave her an 11th career double-double... Smith posted her first career double-double with 44 assists and 15 digs... Rizzo hit over .400 for the third time in four matches... the Blue Demons' 102 digs were the most for the team since Sept. 11, 2010 when the team recorded 113 versus Georgia State... the Blue Demons' 30 errors were the most for the team since a five-set loss to Green Bay on Sept. 26, 2012 (31) and were more than DePaul had committed in all three of its wins to start the year (27)...