Blue Demons Remain Undefeated After 3-2 Win
ORALNDO, Fla. - The DePaul volleyball team proved its mental toughness today, as they improved to 2-0 after a narrow 3-2 victory (25-21, 20-25, 25-20, 19-25, 15-9) over North Florida at the Radisson-UCF Invitational. The Ospreys fall to 1-2, while the Blue Demons get off to the best start since the 2004 season.
DePaul's attacking was a dominant force in the win, led by the trio of Sarah Cullen, Kate Letcher, and Rachel Aumann. All three reached the double-digit kill plateau, led by Cullen's 17. The senior outside hitter registered her third-straight double-double, dating back to last season, as she tallied a match-high 15 digs.
The difference maker, however, in the match was defense.
"Our digging was key to the win," stated head coach Amy Hardison shortly after the win, "When we passed well, we won. We lost when we didn't."
"We've grown so much mentally as well," continued Hardison, "Even if we were down by a couple of points, the team never gave up. The fight and level of competitiveness in the girls is astounding."
DePaul came out swinging in the first game, cruising to a 14-9 advantage after a kill from Chandler Carney forced a North Florida time out. Cullen proved to be too much for the Ospreys, putting the ball away seven times by the end of the 25-21 win to score the first game point. As a team, the Blue Demons out-hit North Florida .206 (15-8-34) to .107 (9-6-28).
The second stanza proved to be a bit more challenging for DePaul, as the Ospreys tallied 18 putdowns compared to DePaul's nine. Paige Pridgeon paced the floor with seven kills, while Nallelis Sanfeliz and Kaley Read registered five apiece. Read terminated the final point, and North Florida evened the score with a 25-20 second-set win.
It was a total team effort in the third game, as six of the eight Blue Demons to see action recorded at least one kill. Chelsea Thurlby and Katherine Knutson instead used their talents in the back row, as they were responsible for the majority of DePaul's dig total. With Thurlby serving, the Blue Demons used a 4-0 run to emerge ahead from a 9-9 tie and take a secure hold on the lead. Although the Ospreys put up an impressive .300 clip, the Blue Demons used timely kills and reliable defense take the third game 25-20.
The match continued to see-saw, as North Florida forced a fifth game with a 25-19 victory in the fourth. Despite strong hitting from DePaul, the Ospreys combated with 12 kills of their own to control the entire game.
With the score knotted up at two, the squads returned to the floor for a fifth and deciding game. With the Blue Demons down 3-4, Aumann stepped up with a strong kill to bring the score back to even. DePaul took control after a 5-0 run behind the service of Cullen. Letcher secured the win for the Blue Demons with the final put down, while Aumman led the floor with four kills.
On defense, DePaul denied attackers six times, led by two block assists and a solo block from Letcher. Sammy Geiger managed the offensive effort with 46 assists.
North Florida was led by Pridgeon and Read, who each tallied 20 kills.
The Blue Demons return to the floor tonight at 6:30 p.m. (CST), for their final game of the weekend against tournament host UCF.
Match Notes: DePaul leads the all-time series against North Florida 1-0... Cullen brings her career double-double total to 29 today following 17 kills and 15 digs in today's effort... dating back to last season, the Blue Demons are on a 3-0 win streak.