VOLLEYBALL: Focused Cyclones dominate in road win over Kansas State

Junior outside hitter Victoria Henson tips the ball over the net against Texas on Nov. 4 at Hilton Coliseum. Photo: Gene Pavelko/Iowa State Daily

Gene Pavelko

Junior outside hitter Victoria Henson tips the ball over the net against Texas on Nov. 4 at Hilton Coliseum. Photo: Gene Pavelko/Iowa State Daily

Kayci Woodley

Whether it be human nature or simply bad luck, teams tend to play down to the level of their competition when facing a struggling opponent. Although an issue often seen in the world of sports, the ISU volleyball team had no problem solidly defeating a team in the lower half of the Big 12 this weekend.

“Sometimes when you go on the road and you play a team that’s maybe struggling in the conference, you tend to get a little lackadaisical or you can play down a level,” coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. “I just thought they did a really great job of playing at a high level the entire time, and that’s hard to do.”

The Cyclones controlled nearly the entire match and remained focused in the 3–0 (25–19, 25–19, 25–10) victory over Kansas State on Saturday.

Not only were the Cyclones victorious over their conference opponent, but the win also marked Iowa State’s 22nd of the season and Johnson-Lynch’s 100th win as Cyclone head coach. Now at 22–4, the Cyclones have matched the most wins in a Johnson-Lynch campaign, and Johnson-Lynch became the fastest volleyball coach to reach the 100-win mark in school history.

“Some of the milestones we’ve reached are, I think, just a result of our program getting better and better every year,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I think the 22 wins is just a reflection of a team that’s just really focused and talented.”

The talent and focus of this year’s Iowa State squad was clearly displayed in the win over Kansas State this weekend. Efforts offensively and defensively came from a wide margin of players, including three players in double digits in kills. A defensive performance that led the Cyclones was by junior libero Ashley Mass.

Mass has remained consistent for Iowa State ever since her freshman year, and that was clear on Saturday night as she posted 20 digs for the 30th time in her career, breaking, yet again, another school record.

Iowa State’s solid hitting percentage of .306 was led by junior outside hitter Victoria Henson’s 15 kills. Henson also displayed her defensive improvements by adding 12 digs and three block assists for the Cyclones.

“Everyone always knew she was a great offensive player and this year she’s been able to show that she’s a very good defensive player as well,” Johnson-Lynch said. “She’s passing really well for us, she generates points when she serves and she’s a very good defensive player so she’s becoming a really, just a great all-around player.”

While Henson has had a history of leading the Cyclones offensively, other players have stepped up this week and especially against Kansas State. Freshman middle blocker Jamie Straube posted 10 kills and a whopping .444 hitting percentage against the Wildcats. The Tecumseh, Neb., native also added two service aces and two block assists.

“She’s become more and more of a factor offensively as the season has progressed and I think that’s just her being more confident and more aggressive,” Johnson-Lynch said.

Along with Henson on the outside, sophomore Rachel Hockaday has been a force for the Cyclones’ attack as she chipped in 11 kills against Kansas State and had a .296 hitting percentage.

“I really felt like both of our road matches this week, at A&M and at K-State, was a real team effort where everyone did some things offensive and defensively,” Johnson-Lynch said.

A spread of blocking assists sprinkled the Cyclone statistical list, compiling a total 7.5 team blocks, which helped Iowa State shut down the Kansas State attack. Along with blocking, Johnson-Lynch saw a strong serving effort from her team against the Wildcats, which accounted for Kansas State’s inability to set up any type of offense. The Wildcats compiled a measly .090 hitting percentage throughout the three sets, which included a negative attacking percentage in the final set.

“I think when you serve tough and take a team out of offense they become more predictable and then your block has an easier time to set up so think we’ve done that both at A&M and K-State,” Johnson-Lynch said. “[We] really forced their setter off the net and forced them to become more predictable offensively.”