ISU volleyball shows improvement in Big 12 opener with 1st home win


Redshirt sophomore Tory Knuth prepares for a serve from Baylor on Sept. 28 at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones shut out the Bears 3-0.

Maddy Arnold

One month into the season, Iowa State finally got its first win at home.

After losing four out of five matches while in nonconference play, the ISU volleyball team has bounced back with wins against Iowa and then Baylor on Saturday. Iowa State has shown signs of improvement as it entered Big 12 play.

Iowa State (7-4) beat Baylor (8-9) in straight sets in its first conference match. The Cyclones got their fourth sweep of the season when they defeated the Bears (25-14, 25-19, 25-17).

“We were solid throughout the whole match. I thought our defense was huge,” said sophomore middle blocker Tory Knuth. “Jenelle [Hudson] did a great job throwing up balls for our hitters, and I thought it was all around good play.”

ISU coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said she saw improvement from a few different players during the game against Baylor including sophomore right side hitter Mackenzie Bigbee, junior outside hitter Victoria Hurtt and senior libero Kristen Hahn.

Bigbee led Iowa State offensively against Baylor. She had 11 digs during the match with a .385 hit percentage, well above her season average of .267 before Saturday.

“We’ve been asking more of [Bigbee], expanding her role, letting her go back and serve, attack out of the back row,” Johnson-Lynch said. “She’s still not real comfortable, but we’re going to move closer and closer to her having a lot of confidence.”

Hurtt was not far behind with 10 kills and a .375 hit percentage on the afternoon. Before the match, she averaged only 2.61 kills per set this season.

Hahn leads the Big 12 in digs per set with 5.44. During the match with Baylor she averaged 7 digs per set and had 21 total in the match.

“I thought Victoria Hurtt had a really nice match, just really made nice decisions on attack,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I thought Hahn was actually pretty spectacular back there. She averaged seven digs a game. That’s pretty remarkable.”

In addition to individual players, Johnson-Lynch said she has seen improvement from the team as a whole against Baylor. The Cyclones hit .300 against Baylor, something they have only done three other times this season.

Before the Saturday’s match, Iowa State led the Big 12 in services aces with 66 on season and averaged 1.69 per set. The Cyclones added another eight to their total after the win against the Bears.

“I thought we were able to get in a rhythm right away, and our focus is definitely shifting in a positive direction towards a Big 12 championship,” Hahn said. I think this is just a good start.”

This season, Iowa State has struggled with its passing skills and its out-of-system play, when someone besides the setter has to set the ball. Johnson-Lynch said both have improved so far this season.

Even though Iowa State has shown plenty of improvement in the first month of its season, the Cyclones still struggle with blocking. During the Baylor game, Iowa State did not have a single block, and it currently is last in the Big 12 in that category.

“It was a pretty low blocking game from both sides. … We don’t necessarily care if we block the ball or we dig it in transition for a kill. Can we keep our opponents to a low hitting percentage?” Johnson-Lynch said. “It continues to be a work in progress for us.”