ISU volleyball improves effort against ranked opponents


Sophomore setter Suzanne Horner fights for the ball over the net with one of the Minnesota players. Horner had a great performance with seven digs in the 16-25, 20-25, 25-20, 23-25 loss on Sep. 13.

Max Dible

Before the 2014 season began, junior hitter Mackenzie Bigbee stated the Iowa State goals as a Big 12 Championship and a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

The ISU volleyball team (5-3, 0-0 Big 12) is off to a winning start, but if the Cyclones want to achieve their goals they must become more adept at toppling premiere competition.

“We have started to develop more of a team identity,” said sophomore setter Suzanne Horner. “Even though we [have struggled] against some good teams, it is exciting to play in those competitive atmospheres.”

Iowa State’s three losses in 2014 have all come at the hands of ranked opponents.

The Cyclones opened the season by falling to Stanford and Florida State, which were both ranked in the top 13 at the time and are currently occupying the No. 1 and No. 6 slots respectively.

The most recent loss came Sept. 13 at the hands of Minnesota, which jumped up from No. 19 to No. 17 in this week’s rankings.

The Golden Gophers doused a hot ISU team, ending an impressive two-week run by Iowa State in which it reeled off five victories in a row and posted a set record of 15-1.

While the end result was not what the Cyclones were hoping for, the match against Minnesota did reveal evidence of progress.

“I think we are getting better,” said ISU volleyball coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. “Just about every area of our game looked better this weekend than [previously] and that is all you can ask for.”

The Cyclones had only six blocks in the two matches against Stanford and Florida State in their first tournament but upped that tally to 10 blocks in Minneapolis.

The Cyclones’ average hitting percentage against Stanford and Florida State was an abysmal .086. Iowa State hit at a clip of .226 against Minnesota.

Perhaps most importantly, the Cyclones were not only competitive against the country’s then-No. 19 team, they actually took a set and almost took two.

After falling down 0-2, the Cyclones rallied to win set number three against the Golden Gophers 25-20. The fourth and final set was decided by the thinnest of margins, 25-23.

The outcome was much closer than Iowa State’s first two opportunities to knock off a ranked opponent, which saw the Cyclones get swept in six consecutive sets and amass 20-plus points in a set only once.

The improved ISU effort came at the tail end of the team’s first road trip of the season and was the third match it had played in a span of roughly 27 hours.

“I’m really excited about what we are going to be,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We do have some young players out there who I think more than anyone are going to have the potential to make huge jumps over the next month or two.”

The Big 12 should provide numerous chances for Iowa State to prove itself against the nation’s top competition.

The next barometer for the Cyclones will come Oct. 1 when they square off on the road against No. 2 Texas.