Volleyball Tops Houston for Second Year in a Row
Chicago - It took five games and nearly three hours, but the Blue Demon volleyball team downed Houston 3-2 (17-15, 2-15, 7-15, 15-10, 15-11). The loss was Houston's first in conference play this season.
After being swept by South Florida in humiliating fashion Friday, the team was able to persevere and rise to the challenge presented by the first place Cougars.
"I am extremely proud of our kids. They finally realized what they're capable of with this match," said head coach Dawn Dockstader. "All I asked of them coming in was that they come out and play the way they are capable of and leave it at that."
The drama produced in the match resembled that of a heavyweight boxing match. With the Blue Demons leading 15-14 in the first game, a possible knockout blow was belted to the Cougars. Jennifer Wittenburg, Houston's star outside hitter who is second in the nation in kills per game, crumpled to the floor and writhed in pain while clutching her ankle--she did not return.
"My heart really goes out to Jennifer; she's an exceptional player," said Dockstader. "I just hope her injury doesn't keep her from coming back this season."
The loss could have derailed the Cougars, but they tied the first game 15-15 before falling 17-15. Instead of folding, Houston proved why they had built a spotless conference record by dominating the second and third games. Bobbi Stewart and Jane Anne Karasek filled Wittenburg's void and delivered their own crushing blows. The pair launched kill after kill to propel the Cougars to their two games to one lead. Stewart had a match high 27 kills and Karasek produced 14 kills and 16 digs as Wittenburg's sub.
After falling behind 5-0 in game four, it appeared the referee's count was nearing ten for the Blue Demons. Instead of lying there and collecting their paycheck for the bout, DePaul clambered back to its feet and inched its way back into the match. It wasn't until 11-10 in the fourth game that the Blue Demons held their first lead since game one.
The fifth game swayed towards both teams as each squad scrapped to win the match. Houston worked to a 9-5 lead before DePaul roared back with five straight points to take a 10-9 lead. It was a lead they wouldn't relinquish as they went on to win 15-11.
Leading the comeback was setter Kara Jakusz who rebounded from a poor match against South Florida. "If anyone knew how hard I've been on her the past two days they'd have been surprised that she came today," said Dockstader.
Rather than wilt under the criticism, Jakusz responded by handing out 70 assists with seven kills and 16 digs. Everyone was a beneficiary of her passing as the Blue Demons had five players with double-digit kill totals. Stephanie Bishop led DePaul with 20 while Melissa Nordine and Katie Engel pitched in 18 and 16 respectively.
Defensively, Nordine tallied 25 digs with Bishop adding 23. Houston's Michelle Frazier amassed a match high 27 digs, while setter Morgan Wallen recorded a triple double with 10 kills, 72 assists and 25 digs.
The win moves DePaul's record to 15-6 (6-3 Conference USA) and drops Houston to 15-4 (8-1 C-USA). The Blue Demons' next match is at home on Tuesday against UW-Milwaukee. The match begins at 7 p.m.