No. 3 Texas poses challenge for ISU volleyball


Senior Tenisha Matlock is on the attack against Kansas State on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at Hilton Coliseum.

Dan Cole

The ISU volleyball team has finished second in the Big 12 in three of the past four seasons. In all three instances, Texas has finished first.

On Saturday, Oct. 19, the Cyclones (10-5, 4-1 Big 12) will travel to Austin, Texas, for their first of two guaranteed meetings with the No. 3 Longhorns (12-2, 5-0) this season, hoping to continue evening a rivalry that has been historically one-sided.

When the two teams met last November, Iowa State defeated the then-No. 3 Longhorns 3-2 in Ames, improving its all-time series deficit to 32-4.

“We seem to always have a great rivalry and a great match with them, it doesn’t seem to matter what kind of year each of us are having,” said ISU coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. “The good thing is every year we get closer and closer to matching up with them physically, so now there’s not much that separates us.”

The Cyclones were able to top the Longhorns last year in Ames, but attempting to do so in Austin will be more difficult. Texas hasn’t lost a Big 12 match at home in 38 consecutive matches dating back to 2008.

The Longhorns have excelled in multiple areas this season, ranking first in the Big 12 in hitting percentage and third in blocks. Iowa State is working in practice this week on speeding up its offense to allow themselves to get past Texas’ big blockers.

In terms of setting up their own blocking, the Cyclones have been making improvements of late but still rank last in the conference in that area. ISU middle blocker Tenisha Matlock knows what she’s up against this weekend.

“I always look forward to playing Texas,” Matlock said. “It’s a big challenge for me, just because from my position, I feel like I can play with them, and I feel like my team can play with them, as well.”

The lack of a midweek match for Iowa State has presented it with more practice time than usual. The Cyclones have won five of their last six matches overall and lead the conference in aces per game, but Johnson-Lynch keeps striving during training to improve in certain areas, including blocking and out-of-system play.

For ISU senior libero Kristen Hahn, who mentioned she had three tests this week, the day off is welcomed but must still be utilized.

“You have to be able to push through soreness and the idea that we’re not playing on Wednesday,” Hahn said. “It allows us to work on little things too — getting more reps or doing different shots, making different plays, stuff like that. So I think practice will help us definitely.”

Saturday’s match at Texas is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Network.