ISU volleyball falls to Colorado in 1st round of NCAA tournament

ISU senior libero Kristen Hahn looks across the court toward the scoreboard after Colorado scored the final point, ending ISU’s season in the NCAA tournament on Dec. 6 at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis, Minn. Hahn ended her career with her 68th straight match with 10 or more digs. She claimed 20 digs against Colorado. 

Mike Randleman

MINNEAPOLIS — After a promising start to the NCAA tournament, Iowa State saw its season come to an end after Colorado dominated the final three sets of the match.

The Cyclones (18-10, 11-5 Big 12) were defeated 3-1 by the Buffaloes (18-13, 9-11 Pac 12) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“I think we were passing well, we were in a nice rhythm, we were keeping the ball in play,” said ISU head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch of the first set. “I thought Colorado looked off; they looked how we looked the rest of the time. They were making a lot of hitting errors, hitting the ball into the net and out of bounds.”

After early success in the match, Iowa State looked poised to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row.

The Cyclones did not trail at any point in the first set and kept Colorado to a .000 hitting percentage en route to a 25-17 first-set win.

Colorado posed a tougher challenge in the second set. The Buffaloes jumped out to a 17-8 lead and never trailed during the set.

Middle blocker Natalie Vondrak and defensive specialist Taylor Goetz, who did not play in the first set, entered the game to try to provide a spark for the Cyclones, though Iowa State would eventually fall 25-16, tying the match 1-1.

Vondrak received additional playing time, in part, due to starting outside hitter Victoria Hurtt being ruled out for the match due to illness.

“We really felt at a certain point we were going to need [Vondrak] and certainly without Hurtt this weekend, we knew were going to need her on the left side,” said Johnson-Lynch.

Goetz subbed in for Jenelle Hudson throughout the final three sets and recorded four digs and an ace in the match.

In the third set, the Buffaloes picked up where they left off, jumping out to an 11-5 lead that propelled them to a 25-19 win to go up 2-1 on the match.

With their season on the line, the Cyclones were on the ropes once again for the duration of the fourth set. Down 17-9, Iowa State was able to claw back to within two at 20-18, but saw its season-saving comeback fall short, losing 25-18.

Senior libero and captain Kristen Hahn reminded her teammates that Colorado would come out with a response after a lackluster start by the Buffaloes.

“I told them, ‘Be ready for them to be more composed, to come full attack,” Hahn said. “I think Colorado did a great job serving and receiving. They just kept the ball in play and I think we got a little timid and that affected us. No matter how hard we try to push and drive, Colorado just had an answer.”

Iowa State’s loss to Colorado was the team’s third loss in a row, and fourth out of five matches.

Despite a tough closing stretch, Johnson-Lynch remained optimistic about the season.

“I think to get back to this point [the NCAA tournament] was a good achievement,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We had a lot of new people out there on the floor tonight and players that had never been in this environment before.”

The match also served as a learning experience for the team’s younger players, including redshirt freshman Morgan Kuhrt, who has earned additional playing time in substituting for starting outside hitter Ciara Capezio.

“I’d be lying if I said there weren’t any nerves — there were,” Kuhrt said of her first NCAA tournament match. “Last year, redshirting gave me experience but not the experience to actually go out there and play.”

Hahn expressed disappointment in how Iowa State’s season came to a quick finish, but said she was thankful for her career as a Cyclone.

“I would not be the person I am today without my coaches and teammates and these experiences,” Hahn said, fighting back tears. “I’m just trying to celebrate all the things I’m going to take away from this program.”