VOLLEYBALL: Improved Cyclones return home

Junior outside hitter Victoria Henson spikes the ball past two Missouri blockers on Saturday, Oct. 3, at Hilton Coliseum. Photo: Logan Gaedke/Iowa State Daily

Logan Gaedke

Junior outside hitter Victoria Henson spikes the ball past two Missouri blockers on Saturday, Oct. 3, at Hilton Coliseum. Photo: Logan Gaedke/Iowa State Daily

Shane Lucas

Coming off of its biggest win of the season, the ISU volleyball team will open the second half of its Big 12 schedule against Texas Tech on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum.

The No. 14 Cyclones (16-3, 8-2 Big 12) will host the Red Raiders (2-16, 0-9) after defeating No. 5 Nebraska on Wednesday night.

“The whole team’s confidence improved after a win like that,” said sophomore outside hitter Rachel Hockaday. “It was a huge win for us and we can take that win and use that confidence for the next games we have.”

One of the biggest improvements to come out of the Nebraska match is the team’s ability to play from behind, something they haven’t had much practice with this season. The Cyclones not only came back from a 2-1 deficit, but also won numerous long points to gain momentum throughout the match.

“We didn’t panic in that situation, we stayed composed,” said coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. “I think it’s certainly a confidence booster knowing that we can get down or go into a tough place like Nebraska and be down 2-1 and still come back and win and that’s huge for us going into the second half of the Big 12.”

The Cyclones now have sole possession of second place in the Big 12, something that the team has been shooting for all season.

“We have it, but we don’t ‘have it’ have it yet,” said senior setter Kaylee Manns. “We still want to beat Texas and Nebraska at home and win second outright.”

Iowa State was able to finish strong on the road after struggling earlier in the season, and will now get to benefit from the tougher remaining matches being played at Hilton.

“It’s nice to be home knowing that we don’t have to travel for a week and half,” Johnson-Lynch said. “It gives us a chance to rest the bodies, recover a little bit and then get back to it.”

While the Cyclones are riding a long win streak and are coming off of a big win, they are remaining focused on the rest of the season and the matchups ahead, including rematches with Texas and Baylor, who swept the Cyclones on Sept. 18 and Sept. 23.

“We can’t get too confident,” Hockaday said. “We still have the whole second round of the Big 12 to play.”

In the previous match against Texas Tech, which took place in Lubbock, the Cyclones cruised to a 3-0 win on the strength of 14 kills by junior outside hitter Victoria Henson. The Cyclones were able to hit .389 while holding the Red Raiders to a .057 percentage during the sweep.

“We’re just going to follow our game plan, play great defense and put the ball away in transition; and hopefully we’ll get the job done,” Hockaday said.

The only major change Texas Tech has made since the last match is switching sophomore Amanda Dowdy from outside hitter to middle blocker, which could create some difficulties during the match.

Last season the Red Raiders finished 5-26 overall and were winless in Big 12 play. They are still without a win so far in conference play this season, and have only managed to win one set against a Big 12 opponent, taking the second set against Colorado Oct. 14.

“That’s a change in the lineup that we’ll have to scout and prepare for,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I think she’s one of the best athletes in the Big 12.”

Dowdy leads the Red Raiders with an average 3.21 kills per set and has compiled a hitting percentage of .134 on the season.

“It’s all on us,” Manns said. “We just have to control the ball, control the tempo of the game and do our part.”

First serve is scheduled for 6:30. The match will also be Iowa State’s annual Dig Pink promotion for breast cancer awareness month.