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Streaking Blue Demons Head to Drake Invitational
Redshirt freshman Randi Leath hit .364 and led the Blue Demons with 14 blocks at the DePaul Invitational last weekend.


Redshirt freshman Randi Leath hit .364 and led the Blue Demons with 14 blocks at the DePaul Invitational last weekend.

Sep 5, 2013

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CHICAGO - After opening the season 3-0 for the first time since 2004, DePaul volleyball looks to extend its early success at the Drake Invitational in Des Moines, Ia. The Blue Demons will meet Drake, South Dakota State and Eastern Illinois at the tournament.

Opening up against the Bulldogs Friday at 7:00 p.m. CT, DePaul will face South Dakota State at 11:00 a.m. CT on Saturday before closing the tournament with a 5:00 p.m. meeting against EIU on Saturday evening.

With three straight sweeps to start the year, DePaul is riding a five-match winning streak dating back to the last two matches of 2012 -- the longest win streak for the program since a 9-0 start to the 2001 season.

The 3-0 results combined to mark the first back-to-back-to-back sweeps for the Blue Demons since 2003 when DePaul beat SE Missouri State, Drake and UIC from Sept. 13-Sept. 16. The program record for consecutive 3-0 wins was set in 1991 when the Blue Demons won five sweeps in a row from Nov. 8-Nov. 16.

Last weekend, in a season-opening tournament championship for the Blue Demons, setter Colleen Smith was named the DePaul Invitational MVP. With Smith running the offense, DePaul hit .350 overall in three matches as the sophomore racked up 11.12 assists per set -- good for fifth in the BIG EAST. Against McNeese State, the Blue Demons put up their best hitting percentage since Oct. 25, 2011 with a .380 mark.

Senior middle blocker Natalie Rizzo also picked up all-tourney honors after hitting .450 with just three errors in three matches.

The good news kept coming for the program on Monday when outside hitter Vesela Zapryanova was named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll for the third time in her career.

The Sofia, Bulgaria-native hit .418 and ripped off seven aces over the weekend, leading DePaul with a career-high .522 hitting percentage in the championship match against McNeese State. Adding 16 digs against the Cowgirls, Zapryanova also collected her 10th career double-double.

If the Blue Demons are able to win on Friday, they'll be gunning for the 2001 team's program record -- a 9-0 start from Aug. 31-Sept. 22.

Scouting The Opposition

South Dakota State is coming off a 16-win season in 2012, but struggled in its opening weekend with 3-0 losses to Iowa State, Texas A&M and North Dakota at the North Dakota Classic.

All six starters are back for EIU, including 11 total letterwinners, led by sophomore Abby Saalfrank and senior Reynae Hutchinson. Both received preseason All-OVC honors. Hutchinson, who has 25 career double-doubles, is one of 12 all-time Panthers to reach the 1,000-kill, 1,000-dig milestone. Saalfrank was the OVC Freshman of the Year last season.

The Panthers sit at 1-3 in 2013 after dropping matches to West Virginia, Toledo and Loyola at the Toledo Blue/Gold Invitational. Their lone win came via a 3-0 decision against Marist.

Drake also sports a 1-3 record after an opening weekend win against Montana State. The Bulldogs' losses have come to Stetson, Idaho and Wyoming.    

A member of the MVC All-Freshman Team, Cassie Effken, has been Drake's most reliable attacker and blocker thus far with 42 kills on a .323 attack percentage and a team-high 21 blocks.

Series History

DePaul holds a 5-0 record all-time against Drake and will be meeting SDSU for the first time in program history. Against EIU, the Blue Demons trail in the all-time series, 17-5.