ISU volleyball prepares for first road matches


Middle blocker Samara West and setter Suzanne Horner use their height to block the Florida State hitters. West had one block during the match on Aug. 31. 

Max Dible

Iowa State has encountered the challenges of youth, chemistry and fatigue early in its 2014 campaign but is set to meet an all too familiar adversary for the first time this season in Minneapolis.

That adversary is the road.

The ISU volleyball team (3-2, 0-0 Big 12) is headed north to participate in the Diet Coke Classic at the University of Minnesota. The Cyclones will take on Milwaukee first followed by Tulsa and will wrap up their weekend with a showdown against No. 19 Minnesota.

ISU head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said that if her team hopes to repeat its recent successes in Hilton Coliseum — where it claimed the Iowa State Challenge on the strength of three victories in three days — it will require an increased effort in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

“This past weekend we did not necessarily have to play our very best because we were probably more physical than the other teams,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I don’t know if that will be true this weekend.”

Johnson-Lynch said that specific aspects of her team’s play must improve, such as its passing that she described as “just average.” She added that the Cyclones must also come through physically in the same ways that helped them win their last three matches.

“Our blocking was great. We have to keep that up,” Johnson-Lynch said. “[They are] just some fundamentals but to do them three matches in a row will be a big challenge.”

Iowa State’s athletic frontline averaged 9.5 blocks per match over its last two contests, a vast improvement from the first three matches of the year in which the Cyclones mustered only three blocks per outing.

The sudden uptick in what Johnson-Lynch said is one of the statistical areas most crucial to her team’s success did not occur by accident.

“[Blocking] is definitely one of our biggest focuses, especially this year,” said junior Mackenzie Bigbee. “I think we’ve worked on it at least every day in practice.”

Iowa State’s daily pursuit of mastering the fundamentals has extended well beyond the block. For weeks the team has focused on reducing attack errors along with being defensively sound at the net.

“We actually talk about attack errors every single day,” said sophomore Ciara Capezio. “I think we are playing with great intensity.”

Johnson-Lynch said maintaining that intensity throughout the weekend will also be key to amassing more victories than defeats during Iowa State’s first weekend away from home.

“They are all going to be good teams [and] well coached. They have all had a lot of success,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We will have to play very well … two days in a row to win all those matches. I think that will be the challenge.”

Iowa State plays its first match at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 12 vs. Milwaukee. Its second and third matches against Tulsa and host team Minnesota are slated for 12:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Sept. 13, respectively.