Volleyball Swings into the 2009 Season
CHICAGO - After weeks of preparation, the DePaul volleyball team jump start the 2009 season this weekend at the Radisson-UCF Invitational in Orlando, Fla. The Blue Demons tangle with Florida Atlantic on Friday at 3 p.m. (CST) before taking on North Florida and tournament host Central Florida on Saturday.
During the two-day tournament, The Venue at UCF plays host to 10 matches featuring six different schools. Bethune-Cookman and Jacksonville also slated to compete over the weekend as well, although neither is scheduled to face DePaul.
This is the first competition weekend for all NCAA Division I programs, and the Blue Demons test out the talent of newcomers Rachel Aumann, Chandler Carney, and Chelsea Thurlby. The trio joins returning starters Sarah Cullen, Christy Landschoot, and Kate Letcher.
"This weekend is all about learning how to play together as a team," commented head coach Amy Hardison, "We really need to focus on our side of the net, and the things we can control. In order for us to be successful we need to execute three things this weekend: serving, passing, and playing defense. Everything else builds off of those skills, and the girls have been working very hard and are well prepared for our first tournament."
Cullen, the team's lone senior, led the 2008 squad in offense, contributing a team-best 3.74 kills per game and was the favorite target of junior setter Landschoot. Together they issued 415 put aways, while Landschoot tallied 1,129 assists during the season.
Adding to the offensive threat is junior Letcher, and sophomore Lauren Blasi. Letchers, a middle blocker, led the team with 25 service aces, as well as register 214 kills. Blasi tacked on 107 kills from the right side.
With the loss of graduating senior Caitlin Callaghan, defensive specialists Katherine Knutson and Thurlby will be relied on protect the back court while, Letcher and Blasi defend at the net. Callaghan tallied 261 digs in 2008, second only to Cullen's 312. Up front, Letcher issued 60 blocks, while Blasi denied the attack on 37 occasions.
"Playing good defense is crucial. If we can pass well, and keep our side of the net in system then we create smart offensive opportunities for ourselves," remarked Hardison, "Volleyball is a game of errors and who ever makes the least amount of errors will win."
DePaul has prior experience playing against Florida Atlantic, but has not faced North Florida or UCF. The last time the Blue Demons met with Owls was in 2004, when DePaul walked away with a 3-0 victory which brought the all-time series to 2-0.
Saturday's match against UCF can be watched live with the purchase of a subscription while free live stats are available for the entire weekend. Game Tracker can be found at http://www.depaulbluedemons.com's live stats page.
Notes: Since DePaul is 14-13 in season openers... the Blue Demons closed the 2008 season with a win over regular-season BIG EAST Conference champion St. John's... DePaul won five of its last 10 matches in 2008... Cullen ended 2008 ranked second in the league with 3.74 kpg... the Blue Demons earned four conference wins last season- the most since joining the league in 2005.