Service Right Up Volleyball Team's Wheelhouse
Natalie Rizzo and her teammates have enthusiastically embraced DePaul's mission of giving back to the community.

July 6, 2012

CHICAGO - If nothing else, Nadia Edwards wants her volleyball team to have an impact on this world.

On the court, the Blue Demons made improvements last season during Edwards' second year as head coach---including going 3-2 in five-set matches.

"There has been tremendous change and everybody is on board moving the program forward," Edwards said. "We have seven new players coming in including two transfers who will be eligible immediately.

"We have brought in freshmen from some of the top club programs, and one of our incoming freshmen was recently named the MVP at a big AAU tournament. It all looks very promising.

"These last two years were all about changing the culture. Sometimes it's hard to see the future. A program-wide attitude change takes time and dedication. We're ready now to take the next step. Our returning players are two years into the program and we have a lot of talented newcomers."

Off the court, Edwards and her players have become even closer through various community service projects that the team has wholeheartedly embraced.

In January the entire team and coaching staff volunteered for three hours at the Chicago Food Bank working on an assembly line putting together emergency boxes for shut-ins.

"I enjoyed this in particular because of how interactive everyone was while working," said junior Natalie Rizzo. "At first Allyson Rooks and I just worked together, but when we stepped away from our comfort zone, we got to talk to some awesome people.

"There was also so much food we packaged. I couldn't believe how much we did in three hours. I think our team really benefitted from this community service because it was so hands-on and introduced us to so many more people.



"I know we will be going back there, as a team or individuals. I think we all realized what an opportunity the food bank gives us. The little tasks really made a huge impact. That is what we want to do with our time, and that's why it was such a great service outing."

After the three-hour session, the Blue Demons had helped repackage 32 complete pallets---accounting for about 32,000 pounds of food.

"We worked as a team on past projects, which is great for fun memories," Rizzo said. "But the interaction with the community at the food bank really impacted us.

"Everyone there had one goal, and we were all complete strangers. It was great to see what people with a common goal can achieve."

In May the Blue Demons conducted a two-hour clinic for girls 11-18 years of age at the Yancey Center Boys and Girls Club on the South Side. Edwards, assistant coaches Marie Zidek and Phuong Luong along with Rizzo, Rooks and Amy Lanski taught basic skills and demonstrated techniques.

"Just like all of our players at DePaul, these young ladies at the Yancey Center have developed a passion for volleyball," Edwards said. "Most of our players can reflect that at some point in their career, someone invested time to teach them the sport and help them cultivate a love for the game. This was our chance to give back to the community and provide some of the opportunities that many of us had growing up.

"I loved seeing the smiles on each of the young ladies' faces during the clinic. They had a high level of intensity and were truly excited to be involved. We look forward to returning for more clinics and building our relationship with the Yancey Boys and Girls Club.

"We also would like to give the young ladies from the clinic a chance to visit DePaul's campus and attend a few of our matches in the fall."

Last month, DePaul was the only college team in the state participating in the Family Sports Festival at Armour Square Park near US Cellular Field on the South Side. The Bears, White Sox, Cubs, Bulls and Sky were also involved.

"The response has been awesome from the people we have impacted," Edwards said. "They are moved by how passionate our players have been when they show up. I'm really proud of the way they are really engaging and interacting with people in the community.

"Volleyball is such a team-oriented sport, and with players spending so much time off the court together---you can tell they like each other. All this has definitely strengthened the bonds of our group.

"It doesn't feel like service at all. We're just having a blast."

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