Cyclones defeat No. 1 Nebraska


Photo: Huiling Wu/ Iowa State Daily

Alison Landwehr blocks the ball during the game against Nerbraska on Saturday, Sept. 15, at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones won 3-1. 

Cory Weaver

For the first time in school history, the ISU volleyball team found a way to beat the top-ranked team in the nation, defeating No. 1 Nebraska 3-1 on Saturday, Sept. 15 at Hilton.

Nebraska-native Tenisha Matlock led the ISU attack with 13 kills, marking just the second time in 82 matches the Cyclones (6-4) have downed the Cornhuskers (8-1).

In the first set, both teams see-sawed point for point until the Cyclones broke away with the final points. A missed serve by Nebraska and a kill from Victoria Hurtt allowed the Cyclones to take set one 25-23 despite just one team block.

In set two, Iowa State started to run away with the match several times, but Nebraska battled back each and every time. The tipping point came when the Cyclones found themselves down 19-18 late in the match.

Johnson-Lynch had preached resiliency throughout this season when her team wasn’t able to close out sets — but Saturday was a different story. From the 19-18 mark through the end of the set, Iowa State went on a 7-3 run to close out the set 25-22 and go up 2-0 on the top team in the country.

Heading into the intermission up 2-0 gave the Cyclones a big momentum surge entering the third set, but Rachel Hockaday was quick to note it didn’t guarantee a win.

“Going in and being up 2-0 was huge, but at the same time, we’ve done that a lot this year, and teams have come back; so we wanted to make sure the momentum stayed on our side and we just wanted to stay [level],” Hockaday said.

The third set fell in Nebraska’s favor. The Cornhuskers led the majority of the match to avoid its first sweep since last season behind a 75-percent hitting percentage.

Prior to the match, Johnson-Lynch said one thing her team needed to do well was block, and through three sets, the Huskers dominated the blocking battle 10-3. Overall, Nebraska out-blocked Iowa State 13-3.

After the match, Johnson-Lynch said blocking just won’t be their thing.

“Maybe we’re not going to block a lot of balls this year, but we’re going to defend like crazy and transition really well,” Johnson-Lynch said. “And if that’s our identity, then we’ll go with that and live with it.”

Johnson-Lynch did add, however, she still believes her team can be a good blocking one.

Iowa State answered back with a bang in the fourth set. The Cyclones took an early 5-0 lead before allowing the Cornhuskers to get on the board. The lead grew as large as seven, but the Cornhuskers wouldn’t go down that easy.

NU coach John Cook helped his team chisel the deficit down to three, but relentless play by the Cyclones led the team to knock off the nation’s top team 3-1 with the 25-21 fourth set victory for its first-ever victory against a No. 1 opponent. 

Throughout the match, just about every ISU player stepped up at one point or another when the team needed it most. Senior Jamie Straube said that is one thing that makes them so unique.

“We all have players that want to step up and make the big play and even if it’s not the person getting the kill,” Straube said. “I think there’s a lot of selflessness, which is awesome, but at the same time when you have that moment, we all want to be that player Alison [Landwehr] can go to for a kill.”

The last, and only other time, the Cyclones have beat the Cornhuskers was in 2009 in Lincoln, Neb. Hockaday led the Cyclones in that 3-2 victory with 18 kills, and Straube played in that game as well.

Winning at home always makes big wins that much better, and Hockaday said this one was extra special.

“It still feels just as good to get the win, but definitely it’s a brand new team,” Hockaday said. “The win was great when we went out there and beat them in five [sets] but today, to beat them in four it was just huge for us; much needed, much needed.”

The Cyclones begin Big 12 play with Baylor a week from Saturday at Hilton Coliseum. Match time is set for 6:30 p.m.