Senior class leads the way to Sweet 16

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Photo: Tim Reuter/Iowa State Daily

Outside hitter Carly Jenson prepares to bump the ball back to Miami during the second round of the NCAA Volleyball Championship on Saturday, Dec. 3. Jenson had 11 kills and scored a total of 12 points for the Cyclones throughout the match.

Zach Gourley

As the ISU volleyball team prepares to for its Sweet 16 matchup with Minnesota on Friday, there is a feeling that there is something different about this year’s postseason run.

“A few years ago, when we beat Wichita State on our home floor to advance to the Sweet 16, it was very business-like. It was almost like there was a lack of excitement,” said ISU coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. “After our early exit last year in the tournament, you learn and are reminded not to take it for granted. …┬áSaturday night after beating Miami, you could just feel the elation and that excitement. It’s just a different feeling than it was a couple years ago.”

Johnson-Lynch said that this year’s senior class of Carly Jenson, Caitlin Mahoney, Deb Stadick and Kelsey Petersen have been key in making sure this year’s team did not fall into complacency.

“It’s a great group that was probably our best recruiting class we ever brought in when they were freshmen,” Johnson-Lynch said. “They’re the core that has seen us through that rise, and they’ve been a part of a lot of great wins.”

That senior quartet is just the second class in ISU history to make it to the NCAA tournament in each of their four years, with three of those years resulting in Sweet 16 appearances, as well as an Elite Eight run in 2008.

“I think that’s just proof of what [Johnson-Lynch] has done for the program, she’s just taken it and turned it around and made it almost an expectation to get this far,” Stadick said.

Jenson, an outside hitter who is averaging 3.88 kills per set on the season, said that last year’s first-round exit in a 3-2 loss to Creighton put everything into perspective for this year’s team.

“I think maybe in years past we took it for granted that we would advance,” Jenson said. “This year we’re all more grateful to move on from the first two rounds against two really good teams.”

The Cyclones will face Minnesota in the Sweet 16 in Minneapolis this Friday at 7 p.m.