Cyclones drop banner, defeat in-state rival Northern Iowa

Hilton Coliseum has a full house for the first in season match at home of the year. The Cyclones won in four sets against in-state rival Northern Iowa.

Alex Halsted

A night in which the team saw its 2011 Elite Eight banner fall from the rafters was just as much about celebrating as it was looking forward.

“It’s motivation of course; I think we always remember that match against Florida State in the Elite Eight and losing by four points,” said junior Kristen Hahn of the banner. “But we definitely don’t look on it too much; we look definitely forward.”

Looking forward Wednesday evening meant focusing on No. 25 Northern Iowa (3-3, 0-0 MVC). And No. 18 Iowa State (3-3, 0-0 Big 12) did just that, defeating their in-state rival in four sets — 25-18, 23-25, 25-14, 27-25 — after being swept in straight sets a season ago in Cedar Falls.

After Iowa State and Northern Iowa alternated the first two sets, the Cyclones hit a turning point in the third set while the teams were tied at 10 apiece.

Iowa State finished the set on a 15-4 run to take a 2-1 lead in the match, fueled by 9 kills.

“I felt like in that run we all played really good defense, and we just made some aggressive plays,” said senior Rachel Hockaday, who had three kills in the run. “In the beginning we were kind of playing complacent, but we realized every point counts, and we just took it one point at a time.”

ISU coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said she noticed the team serving better during its third-set run, adding it helped them get in a good rhythm.

“I really noticed when we serve tough we get the opponent off the net, [and] we start running a lot of points and get in a pretty good groove then,” Johnson-Lynch said.

The Cyclones and Panthers went back-and-forth in the fourth set of the evening, but leading 26-25, senior Jamie Straube and freshman Mackenzie Bigbee were able to block the Panthers’ final attempt to secure a victory against the in-state rival.

“It felt really good, our team made a great comeback,” Straube said of the game-ending block. “The whole game I was just waiting for that block; I felt like I was getting closer and closer as the match went on.”

Johnson-Lynch said her team “floated” at times during the match, but thought they showed poise down the stretch.

“They did show a lot of poise at the end there; it’s not easy to come back against a team,” Johnson-Lynch said. “It’s not like they let up — they made a couple of errors, but they were taking swings and being aggressive.”

That poise helped the Cyclones to their second top-25 victory of the early season, and it brought the announced crowd of 2,628 to its feet to celebrate a win that capped off a big night.

“You look up there and see the tradition, and while I don’t think that can be on your head too much, you see the tradition that’s been established and you want to make those alum proud,” Johnson-Lynch said.