ISU volleyball set play in familiar place during NCAA tournament

Maddy Arnold

Although they will not be at home, the Cyclones will play in a familiar place for the first round of the NCAA tournament.

For the third time in four years, the ISU volleyball team (18-9, 11-5 Big 12) will play an NCAA tournament match in Minneapolis when it faces Colorado on Friday. Despite being in the same place, the two other seasons Iowa State has competed in Minneapolis could not have been more different.

Four years ago, Iowa State lost in the opening round of the tournament to Creighton. Just one season later, Iowa State had a much different outcome in Minnesota. The No. 14 Cyclones visited No. 19 Golden Gophers and won and advanced to the Elite Eight.

“Bad [memories] definitely freshman year. Good [memories] sophomore year. It’s kind of a comfortable environment I think for me and [Kristen] Hahn,” said senior middle blocker Tenisha Matlock.

Because Iowa State was not ranked high enough to host the first two rounds of the tournament, ISU coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said playing at Minnesota was the best possibility for the Cyclones.

Playing in Minneapolis was an unexpected surprise for some of the Cyclones and a good one at that. Because the match is so close to Ames, the Cyclones will not have to fly — an advantage for both athletes and fans.

“I think it’s a great draw for us in terms of playing in Minnesota. We’re obviously very comfortable there and know the drill there,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I love not having to get on a plane. I think that is such a huge advantage. You can’t ask for more than that.”

Despite the positive reaction to the location, the Cyclones’ path through the tournament will not be an easy one.

Iowa State will play its first-round match against Colorado (17-13, 9-11 Pac 12) on Friday, Dec. 6. If Iowa State advances, it will play either No. 10-seeded Minnesota or Radford.

“It’s a great place to play volleyball and Minnesota is a great team,” said libero Kristen Hahn. “All us upperclassmen have been there and will feel a lot more relaxed there then maybe the underclassmen will.”

If the Cyclones move on to the Sweet 16, they will play in the regional in Lexington, Ky. Some notable teams in the Lexington regional are No. 2-seeded Penn State, No. 7-seeded Stanford and host No. 15-seeded Kentucky.

Stanford defeated Iowa State in its last NCAA tournament appearance. The Cyclones advanced to the Sweet 16 before being swept by the Cardinal last season.

The Cyclones will enter the tournament after dropping three of their last four regular-season matches. Iowa State ended its season with a loss to No. 1 Texas and then getting swept by Kansas State.

“I think we have to find ourselves a little bit,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Things that we did well serve, pass and play defense we just didn’t do well that night [Kansas State]. I think our goal will be let’s relax and enjoy and just appreciate this opportunity we have.”