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Volleyball Opens Conference Play Hosting White Out Against Marquette
Senior middle Natalie Rizzo brings a .342 attack percentage into conference play.


Senior middle Natalie Rizzo brings a .342 attack percentage into conference play.

Sept. 26, 2013

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CHICAGO - Already off to the best start in program history, DePaul looks to extend its season-opening 13-match win streak on Saturday when Marquette visits McGrath-Phillips Arena in the Blue Demons' conference opener.

First serve is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CT in Lincoln Park, where DePaul will be hosting a 'White Out' event. Fans are encouraged to wear white and will receive a complimentary t-shirt and can cooler at the match while supplies last.

Winners of tournaments at DePaul, Drake, The Citadel and SIUE, the Blue Demons will be facing off against their first conference competition of the season.

DePaul took its 13th straight match in its most recent action at local rival UIC on Wednesday, sweeping the Flames behind a standout performance by outside hitter Vesela Zapryanova. The preseason All-BIG EAST selection tied her career-high with 22 kills in just three sets to finish as the only attacker in double figures for either team.

Prior to the midweek matchup at UIC, the Blue Demons battled through a 3-0 weekend at the SIUE Cougar Invitational.

Following the weekend, right side Abbie Fleener was selected as the BIG EAST Player of the Week on Monday. The honor marked the second time a Blue Demon volleyball player has been recognized by the league with the weekly award this season -- the first time came when Vesela Zapryanova was selected on Sept. 9.

Following the Marquette match, DePaul hits the road for three straight BIG EAST contests, beginning with a Friday, Oct. 4 meeting with Villanova at 6 p.m. CT.

Series History
The Blue Demons trail 28-22 in the all-time series against Marquette, including a 3-0 loss last season.

In that meeting, the Golden Eagles out hit DePaul .360 to .220 as the Blue Demons fell 25-19, 25-20, 25-23.

DePaul has dropped four straight in the series and last beat Marquette 3-2 on Nov. 1, 2008.

Scouting The Opposition
Marquette is off to a 7-4 start, but its losses have all come at the hands of teams ranked No. 13 or better by the AVCA.

The Golden Eagles are led by freshman all-around standout Autumn Bailey, who paces the team with 158 kills and is second with 119 digs. Lindsey Gosh, who had 11 kills in last year’s meeting, is Marquette’s second option with 106 kills on 248 attempts (.335).

Preseason All-BIG EAST setter Elizabeth Koberstein runs the offense and leads the conference in assists per set (11.22). She has also directed Marquette to a .244 team attack percentage.

Solid on the backline, senior libero Julie Jeziorowski averages 4.27 digs per set.

Bringing Home The Hardware
Tyler Graham recorded 49 digs and was named MVP of the SIUE Cougar Invitational this past weekend, while Abbie Fleener and Colleen Smith also made appearances on the all-tournament team.

Both Abbie Fleener and Natalie Rizzo were named all-tournament during the Blue Demons’ recent trip to The Citadel. After the weekend, Rizzo picked up her first-ever BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll nod after hitting .367 and landing a career-high 17 kills in the Radford win.

In a three-win weekend at Drake from Sept. 6-7, DePaul saw senior OH Vesela Zapryanova named tournament MVP while middle blockers Natalie Rizzo and Randi Leath were both named to the alltournament team.

At the season-opening DePaul Invitational tourney, MVP honors went to sophomore setter Colleen Smith, who was named tournament MVP. Senior middle blocker Natalie Rizzo also picked up alltournament team honors after hitting .450 with just three errors in three matches.

Getting Off On The Good Foot
Already off to a 13-0 start, DePaul has established a new record for most wins to start a season. They have surpassed the 2001 team for the best season-opening run in DePaul history. That team began its year 9-0 from Aug. 31-Sept. 22.

Overall, with 15 straight wins going back to last season, the Blue Demons have achieved the second-longest winning streak in program history. The all-time record, set by the Hall of Fame 1978 team, is 16 straight wins.

Select Company
As of early Thursday, Sept. 24, DePaul is one of just six unbeaten teams left standing in NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball. The Blue Demons are part of a small group of undefeated teams, including Missouri, Washington, UNC, Colorado St. and Ohio St.

Super ‘Nova
Senior outside hitter Vesela Zapryanova continued to make DePaul volleyball history on Monday, Sept. 9 when she was named the program’s first-ever BIG EAST Player of the Week.

Charla Drabant, a Freshman of the Week selection in 2007, was the only previous DePaul student-athlete to be awarded a BIG EAST weekly honor.

Adding to her trophy case prior to the year, Zapryanova also laid claim to the honor of being the first preseason All-BIG EAST selection in program history.

After her first weekend of action, the Sofia, Bulgaria- native was honored with her third career BIG EAST Honor Roll nomination on Monday, Sept. 2.

In the championship match of the Drake Invitational, she recorded a career-best .652 hitting percentage with a season-high 17 kills. In the weekend’s opening contest against Drake, Zapryanova’s defensive prowess was on display as she posted a career-high 26 digs.

As of Tuesday's weekly conference release, she was ranked fifth in the BIG EAST in kills (3.57 per set) and points (4.32 per set), as well as third in aces (0.45 per set).

Witt’s Historic Triple-Double
Senior setter Laura Witt accomplished a rare feat on Saturday, Sept. 14 in the Blue Demons’ 3-0 win over The Citadel, registering a career-high 10 kills to go along with 15 digs and 27 assists. Those numbers marked the first career triple-double for Witt – and the first for the DePaul program since 2004.

Janet Goreham put together the Blue Demons’ last triple-double on Nov. 6, 2004 in a 3-2 win versus Tulane, recording 17 kills, 13 digs and 10 block assists. Since 2000, only one other DePaul student-athlete has matched the feat – Kara Jakusz on Sept. 22, 2000 in a 3-0 sweep of UAB (10 kills, 15 digs, 39 assists).

Smith’s Impressive Opening Weekend
Colleen Smith made quite the first impression during her Blue Demon debut Aug. 30-31, garnering DePaul Invitational MVP honors at the setter position.

With Smith running the offense, DePaul hit .350 overall in three matches as the sophomore racked up 11.12 assists per set. Against McNeese State, the Blue Demons put up their best hitting percentage since Oct. 25, 2011 with a .380 mark.

The production has continued, as DePaul currently sports a .296 hitting percentage through 12 matches – a number that ranks first in the BIG EAST Conference and in the top-20 nationally.

DePaul has hit at least .311 in eight-of-13 matches after cracking .300 just four times last season.

Back In Blue
After introducing seven new players to the roster a year ago, the Blue Demons are benefitting from continuity in 2013.

The program returns six seniors and four battletested sophomores. Two freshmen and Indiana transfer Colleen Smith round out the roster.