Positives overshadow opening weekend’s results


Photo: Rebekka Brown/Iowa State Daily

Outside hitter Jamie Straube spikes the ball against her opponents during the third set of the Iowa State — Nebraska spring game held Saturday evening at Hilton Coliseum. Straube gained the Cyclones 18 points, 31 total attacks and 15 kills in their 1-3 loss to the Huskers.

Cory Weaver

Optimism radiated from ISU volleyball coach Christy Johnson-Lynch at her weekly news conference on Monday despite her team going 1-2 in its opening weekend.

The weekend’s final scores, however, don’t begin to tell the story, and Johnson-Lynch said she was very pleased with her team’s performance.

“We played really well,” Johnson-Lynch said. “The two losses we did have, we played two great teams. We were toe to toe all the way, and I think we played great.”

The 10th-ranked Cyclones breezed past Cincinnati 3-0 Friday afternoon but lost 3-2 to both No. 12 Florida State and the hosting No. 15 Tennessee on Saturday to start the season.

Normally, the nonconference season is a time for teams to play some opponents that will give them a few easy wins to start off the season. For Iowa State, Johnson-Lynch wanted to give her team a challenge and veteran middle Jamie Straube agreed.

“We could have went and played three OK teams, smoked them out of the water and came out with a 3-0 record and been like ‘OK, we’re pretty good,’ but in a way, you learn so much more from a loss, especially from those teams,” Straube said. “I would much rather play a great team now, lose by a couple points, learn the things that we need to work on, play them again in December and be able to fix those right away.”

One thing Johnson-Lynch said she was happy with was the play of her freshman class.

As the No. 6-ranked recruiting class in the country, the freshmen knew they had to come in and show why they were ranked so high, and senior outside hitter Rachel Hockaday said they did just that.

“The freshmen really stepped up,” Hockaday said. “They all played great and we’re playing some top top teams, some championship programs, and they stepped right up and did great and handled the pressure well, and we were in some really tight situations, and they came through.”

Freshman Mackenzie Bigbee made her presence known as she led the Cyclones with 37 kills on the weekend and was named to the Comcast Lady Vol Classic All-Tournament team.

Fellow freshmen Caitlin Nolan and Andie Malloy saw significant points as well for the Cyclones. With the seven-person freshman class, Johnson-Lynch realizes she will have to redshirt some of them but said it is still up in the air.

“The freshmen that didn’t play didn’t play because we’re still considering redshirting some of them,” Johnson-Lynch said.

Those freshmen include setter Jenelle Hudson, middle blocker Natalie Vondrak and outside hitter Morgan Kuhrt.

Johnson-Lynch said that with all things considered, she believes they looked like a top-20 caliber team with the potential to be in the top 10 or even top five.

To make that jump, the team will have to improve its blocking and offense as well, and the Cyclones already go up against another ranked opponent this weekend against No. 7 Illinois.

“Little plays here and there,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Our blocking stats weren’t impressive, but when I watched the film, I felt like, ‘Boy, we really frustrated the other team by touching the ball a lot,’ but we can block a lot more for points and get stuff blocked, so we took that away from the weekend.”

The Cyclones beat the Illini 3-1 in the spring, but this time they will need to replicate that on the road in Champagne, Ill. The first match is scheduled at 7 p.m. Friday night with the second cap at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.