Cyclones defeat in-state rival Hawkeyes despite ‘tentative’ play


Photo: Grace Steenhagen/Iowa State Daily

Setter Alison Landwehr sets a pass to middle hitter Tenisha Matlock. The ISU volleyball team faced up against the UNI Iowa Panthers on Wednesday, Sept. 5. The game went for four sets, with Iowa State winning the first, third and fourth. The final score of the fourth set was 27-25.

Alex Halsted

Playing in a second in-state rivalry match in less than a week, the ISU volleyball team was close to a sweep of Iowa on Friday evening.

“It’s just one more play,” said setter Alison Landwehr. “We would get a touch on the block when we should have maybe stuffed it, we’d get a ball that’s off the hands that was almost there or a dig that we should have had or would have normally had.”

Instead of a three-set sweep, the Hawkeyes (6-3, 0-0 Big Ten) took the No. 18 Cyclones (5-3, 0-0 Big 12) to five sets after Iowa State failed to end the third set despite six match point opportunities.

The Cyclones would eventually win in five sets for their second victory of the day — they swept Eastern Washington in straight sets in the afternoon — and a sweep of their in-state rivals.

ISU coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said her team simply could not convert on a number of opportunities to put Iowa away in the third set. Eventually they would lose the set 33-31.

“We had probably four or five balls that were basic balls, easy to bring up, pick up the tip, pick up a dump,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I feel like if we’re really getting after it and fighting, that’s an automatic point and convert.”

Iowa State won the first two sets 25-17 and 25-13 before dropping both the third and fourth sets. Johnson-Lynch felt the team played tentative after the first two sets of the night.

“We looked tentative. We looked tight when Iowa started playing better,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We weren’t aggressive. We had opportunities and we weren’t really swinging for kills; opportunities for blocks and we were right there and we let the ball get through us.

“I thought we just assumed the match was over after game two, and Iowa showed a lot of resilience and we did not respond.”

One thing Johnson-Lynch was happy with was the play of middle blocker Tenisha Matlock, who had a career-high 20 kills in the match.

Matlock attempted to lift the Cyclones to the sweep in the third set with 9 kills, but it wasn’t enough. Johnson-Lynch said the play of Matlock was even more impressive because of the way the Hawkeyes were playing her.

“They were triple-blocking her at times, and she still got kills,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I was thrilled to see that from her.”

Matlock, who Johnson-Lynch believes could be an All-American, said she didn’t realize Iowa was triple-blocking her until Johnson-Lynch told her, and attributed her career night to being more focused. 

“I got mentally focused more this game,” Matlock said with a laugh. “That and I had an Excedrin, which really got me going.”

The victory against the Hawkeyes is the eighth straight for the volleyball team and gives Iowa State its first win in this year’s Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series.

Johnson-Lynch said the team’s tentative play at times may have been due to the pressure of playing the rival Hawkeyes, but said the pressure won’t soon go away.

“There’s pressure, but there’s pressure in the NCAAs, there’s pressure when we’re playing for a Big 12 championship,” Johnson-Lynch said. “That’s not going to go away, and we’ve got to embrace that and learn to deal with it and get more aggressive rather than less aggressive.”