New ISU volleyball lineup set for spring tournament


Jen Hao Wong/Iowa State Daily

Mackenzie Bigbee, left, tries to save the ball during the match against South Dakota on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at Hilton Coliseum with Kristen Hahn, right, watching Bigbee’s back.

Mike Randleman

After an early exit in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season, ISU women’s volleyball had its longest offseason in three years.

ISU coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said that the first-round upset loss to Colorado replays in the mind of her and her team, but that they now use it to focus on what they hope to achieve in the fall.

“It certainly plays in my mind. Every day when I come down here I think ‘Where do we want to be in the fall?’” Johnson-Lynch said. “Although we haven’t talked about it together, I’m sure it plays in all of our minds.”

Now, with nearly a month of spring practices under their belts in 2014, the new-look Cyclones are ready to begin their spring exhibition slate.

“You can really start to feel the excitement, because I think sometimes you can just get in such a lull with just practice and no competition to look forward to,” said junior right-side hitter Mackenzie Bigbee.

Unlike some collegiate sports that do not face offseason competition, Iowa State will have the opportunity to break from the monotony of intrasquad practices and scrimmages by facing other teams.

“It’s really nice to see faces you haven’t seen for the past year,” said junior libero Caitlin Nolan. “It’ll be good to see where we are and what we need to work on, because I feel like it’s completely different in a game setting compared to where we are right now [in practice].”

In an abbreviated schedule compared to the fall season, Iowa State will play eight matches in a two-week span that features a home tournament and a match against an old Big 12 foe, Nebraska.

As Nolan mentioned, this spring will provide the first glimpse into a team that is without its core members from last year’s NCAA tournament squad.

The Cyclones lost three starters, including three-time All-American and three-time Big 12 Libero of the Year, Kristen Hahn. Hahn, along with Big 12 Honorable Mention recipient Tenisha Matlock, both exhausted their eligibilities, while junior Jenelle Hudson transferred from the program.

“We’ve definitely changed a lot since last year’s team, but it’s nice to see people stepping up, taking on those leadership roles,” Bigbee said.

Bigbee said Nolan is an expected leader at the libero position, replacing Hahn’s vocal leadership. Bigbee, a more quiet, reserved player, let her play do the talking last season, earning All-Big 12 honors.

All-Big 12 freshman Ciara Capezio, along with fellow outside hitters Victoria Hurtt, Morgan Kuhrt and middle blocker Tory Knuth, all earned extensive playing time last season in starting and reserve roles.

The challenge this spring for Johnson-Lynch will be blending Iowa State’s returning talent with incoming transfers and freshmen.

The Cyclones will have three freshmen on the 2014 roster, one of which, setter Monique Harris, enrolled early in January to practice and compete with the team in the spring.

Sophomore setter, and Mississippi State transfer, Suzanne Horner, also joined the team in the spring. Horner will be eligible for the fall season and can immediately compete in spring matches.

Johnson-Lynch said the spring season won’t finalize lineup combinations for the fall but will allow her to experiment with different combinations.

“You’re starting to look at it at least,” Johnson-Lynch said of starting lineup possibilities. “We’re a long ways away. We have so much time from now and then and we’ll have so much time to look at different lineups, but you want to see who’s kind of emerging.”

Iowa State’s spring schedule begins with a tournament at 10 a.m. April 5 at Hilton Coliseum against Nebraska Kearney, Omaha and Northern Iowa.