DePaul Volleyball Stuggles in Match One
CHICAGO - The DePaul volleyball team dropped a narrow 3-2 (25-15, 19-25, 22-25, 25-19, 12-15 ) match to Western Illinois in its opening draw of the 2009 DePaul Challenge. The match was the second of the evening as Clemson won a 3-0 decision over Loyola-Chicago earlier in the evening. With the loss, the Blue Demons fall to 2-2 while Western Illinois improves to 2-4.
Both teams had strong showings from their hitters, as Kate Letcher and Sarah Cullen notched 15 and 18 kills, respectively, while the Leatherneck's Cait Egan, Allison Gilbert, and Megan Toczek all tallied 10 put-aways. Despite out swinging the Leathernecks with a .243 (59-23-148) team attack percentage, DePaul was riddled with errors at the service line. Western Illinois finished the night with a .133 clip and 49 kills.
The Blue Demons got off to a fast start in the first set, jumping out to a 6-2 lead. Although a service ace from Chandler Carney forced the Leathernecks to take a timeout, DePaul continued to surge forward and extend its advantage to a 15-5 score. Letcher tallied her fifth kill of the game to put the first stanza away, 25-15. She lead the floor with a perfect 1.000 (5-0-5) attack percentage to help the team post an impressive .565 (14-1-23) clip.
The Leathernecks fired back in the second game, using kills from Egan and Gilbert to cruise to a 7-2 lead. After a Blue Demon timeout, DePaul used a 4-1 run to reach within a point. Western Illinois' 16 kills proved to be too tough to overcome, however, as they continued to build on its lead after that. Cullen was able to eliminate one game point, terminating her third ball of the set, making the score 19-25. On the next point, Ellen Miller set up Toczek for her fourth kill of the stanza, and effectively knotted the match score at one. Gilbert led the floor with five kills.
Defense at the net led Western Illinois to victory in the third game. Kate Hosteng denied the attack on four occasions, assisting in every block the team recorded. Down by as much as 20-14, the Blue Demons continued to fight hard and got within a point behind back-to-back kills from Letcher, making the score 23-22 in favor of WIU. A kill from Toczek and an ace from Miller ended the third set, giving the Leathernecks the 2-1 lead.
Not willing to go away quietly, DePaul hit a strong .317. Fueled by six kills from Cullen in addition to Letcher's five, the Blue Demons only trailed during the first three points of the set. While WIU hung on within two points the entire game, DePaul scored five straight points to tie the match back up at 2 games a piece. A service ace from Katherine Knutson, and two-straight kills out of Letcher sealed the win and forced a fifth set.
In the deciding game, Chelsea Thurlby served her way to a 4-1 start for the Blue Demons before a Gilbert kill and an attack error on DePaul forced the Blue Demons to take a time out. After the pause in the action, Cullen fired down a kill to extend the lead to 8-5. Three-straight Leatherneck kills knotted the score at eight, and aDePaul attack error allowed WIU to take the lead. The Blue Demons threatened with a 4-0 run behind kills from Cullen and two attack errors on Western Illinois' side of the court, but DePaul was unable to put the set away and bowed out 12-15.
Cullen paced the floor with 14 digs, while Letcher and Rachel Aumann each tallied four total blocks. Geiger dished out a career-best 50 assists.
The DePaul Challenge resumes on Saturday when the Blue Demons face Loyola-Chicago at 12:30 p.m. (CST) followed by a 7:30 p.m. nightcap against Clemson.Notes: Sarah Cullen has recorded double-doubles (kills-digs) in three of the season's four matches... only one student-athlete (Katherine Knutson) outside the starting seven has entered the match for DePaul... Western Illinois now leads the all-time series 10-8.