Volleyball Welcomes Three For Pivotal BIG EAST Weekend
Oct. 24, 2013
CHICAGO - It's going to be a busy weekend for DePaul volleyball as the team welcomes three BIG EAST Conference opponents to McGrath-Phillips Arena.
The Blue Demons battle Georgetown to lead off the weekend, meeting the Hoyas on Friday at Noon as part of Field Trip Day -- hundreds of area school children will pack the gym during the annual outing.
On Saturday, DePaul kicks off a rematch against Creighton at 2:30 p.m. before capping the weekend on Sunday versus Villanova at 3:00 p.m.
Sunday's match will be the team's annual Dig Pink event with all match proceeds going to benefit the Side-Out Foundation. Side-Out supports teams nationwide in their volleyball tournaments, clinics and other fundraising efforts. All funds are contributed to organizations that serve breast cancer patients, whether it be in the form of research, medical services or patient support.
As a team, the Blue Demons are sitting at 15-4 (1-4 BIG EAST) and have split their past four matches going back to Oct. 5. Since late 2012, DePaul has won 17-of-21 matches after putting together a 14-0 record against non-conference competition this season.
Last week, DePaul went 1-1 with a midweek win over Green Bay and a road loss to Marquette.
On Monday, senior Natalie Rizzo was named to her second BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll after hitting .426 in the two matches -- including a season-best .647 at Marquette. The award marked the fifth time a Blue Demon has made the honor roll during the 2013 season, and the seventh time in eight weeks volleyball has been recognized by the conference for its standout play.
Following the three match stretch, DePaul will be back on the road Nov. 1-2 to face Butler and Xavier as conference opponents for the first time. DePaul meets Xavier on Friday, Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. before heading to Indianapolis, Ind. to face Butler on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Against CU, the all-time series is locked 1-1 after the Blue Demons suffered a 3-1 road loss to the Bluejays on Oct. 11 in Omaha.
Villanova leads the all-time series 8-1, including a 3-0 home win in the last meeting on Oct. 4. Vesela Zapryanova tied a match-high with 14 kills in Philly.
Scouting The Hoyas
Offensively, Lauren Saar is the star and paces the Hoyas, while ranking eighth in the BIG EAST at 3.14 kills per set. Hitting .158 collectively, Georgetown has three offensive options with 200+ kills.
Libero MacKenzie Simpson is ninth in the conference in digs per set (3.67). As a team, Georgetown ranks fourth in the BIG EAST with 15.85 digs per set.
Scouting The Bluejays
Rolling on a five-match winning streak entering the weekend, CU is hitting .222 as a team. The Bluejays rank second in the BIG EAST and sixth in the NCAA in blocks (2.91 per set).
Junior MB Kelli Browning leads the charge with 97 total blocks (1.41 per set), numbers which place her 14th nationally and first in the BIG EAST. Freshman Lauren Smith has also been a standout, ranking ninth in the BIG EAST and 175th in the NCAA in hitting percentage (.313).
Scouting The Wildcats
Sophomore setter Emma Pettit (10.78 assists per set) runs the offense, which features three options with 140 or more kills. Senior defensive specialist Mariah Henley is also tops in the conference in digs (5.20 per set) and third in aces (0.39 per set).
At her current rate of 3.72 digs per set, she would reach the landmark in approximately 11 sets.
The last Blue Demon to reach the plateau was Sarah Cullen, who finished her career with 1,151 digs in 2009.
In a road outing on Oct. 5, a 3-0 win at Georgetown, the Blue Demons hit .330 – their highest hitting percentage against a BIG EAST opponent since connecting at a .353 clip on Nov. 16, 2008 (a 3-1 home win versus St. John’s).
DePaul has hit at least .310 in 10-of-19 matches after cracking .300 just four times last season.
On Sept. 9, senior Vesela Zapryanova made program history by becoming the first DePaul volleyball student-athlete to be voted BIG EAST Player of the Week. Two weeks later, Abbie Fleener joined her by winning the award on Sept. 23.
Natalie Rizzo grabbed the Blue Demons’ most recent award on Monday, Oct. 21 when she was named to the weekly honor roll, marking the fifth time a DePaul student-athlete has earned the recognition in 2013.
Busting Out The Brooms
Its latest sweep, a 3-0 win at Georgetown, was the first BIG EAST sweep since Oct. 28, 2011 at St. John’s and just the sixth since the program joined the conference in 2005.
DePaul won its first three matches of the year via the sweep, marking its first back-to-back-to-back sweeps since 2003 when the Blue Demons beat SE Missouri State, Drake and UIC from Sept. 13-Sept. 16.
The program record for consecutive 3-0 wins and total sweeps was set in 1991 when the Blue Demons won five sweeps in a row from Nov. 8-Nov. 16 and 22 overall.