Johnson-Lynch learning early about team


Libero Kristen Hahn looks to bump the ball to her teammates during the Iowa State – Arizona State match held Friday, Sept. 2 at Hilton Coliseum. Hahn had 22 digs during that match to help the Cyclones defeat the Sundevils 3-1.

Alex Halsted

Following a sweep in straight sets at the hands of No. 19 Illinois, ISU volleyball coach Christy Johnson-Lynch used her team’s defeat as an early-season learning experience.

“We really hammered home; we have got to play defense and get after it defensively and just do what Iowa State’s known for,” Johnson-Lynch said of her message following Friday’s loss. “I thought that’s exactly what we did Saturday night.”

In seven seasons with Johnson-Lynch, the Cyclones have out-dug their opponent 74 percent of the time. Prior to Saturday’s match with Illinois, Iowa State had failed to do so in four attempts during the 2012 season.

“That has always been our identity: play defense, hustle, pursue balls and make it very tough for the opponent to put the ball down,” Johnson-Lynch said.

On Saturday, in a second weekend match with Illinois, Johnson-Lynch had the team funnel the ball to junior libero Kristen Hahn. Hahn said that particular game plan forced her to have added focus.

“I have to work harder, and I have to make sure I perform well every day and every game,” Hahn said. “If they’re going to funnel the ball to me I can’t miss a dig or make a bad play.”

And she didn’t. On Saturday, the Cyclones out-dug the Illini 72-51 — including 21 digs from Hahn and 17 from outside hitter Rachel Hockaday — for their first top-25 win of the season.

“Something that Christy has always stressed is being very defensive,” Hahn said. “We can run our offense more when we play defense and that gives us a lot more opportunities.”

Despite being 2-3, the Cyclones prepare to play at home Wednesday for the first time this season, Johnson-Lynch is happy her team is learning now rather than later due to playing four of five matches against top-25 opponents. 

“I think we’re finding answers to questions now that some teams might not know until October or maybe November when they’re really pushed,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Even though our record isn’t where we want it to be, I like what we’re finding out about our team now.”

Tory Knuth proves herself as sub

One additional question the team has found an early answer to is whether or not redshirt freshman middle blocker Tory Knuth can provide value to the team off the bench.

The answer for Johnson-Lynch is a resounding yes.

“We’ve also seen what our subs can do,” Johnson-Lynch said of what she’s learned. “Tory Knuth came in, and she’s been really good for us. We know she can come in now in pressure situations against really good teams and have a really big impact.”

Friday evening Knuth played in two of the team’s three sets and collected two kills in eight attack attempts.

Her teammates have even taken notice.

“I think she just plays really calm, and she comes in and just does her job,” Hahn said. “To come in off the bench — you don’t ever know if you’re coming in or not — I think she’s made some big plays.”

Hahn stressed that Knuth was a primary factor in going to five sets earlier this season with then No. 12 Florida State. 

In the fourth set of that match Knuth stepped up late with key blocks. She went 3-of-6 in kills in the match with one solo block and two assisted blocks.

Knuth said she simply tries to help in any capacity she can.

“I just try to prove that I can compete in there and hopefully do just as good as Jamie [Straube] and Tenisha [Matlock] and really impact the game and help the team out when maybe we’re struggling and a sub would help,” Knuth said.