VOLLEYBALL: Big third set comeback spearheads Cyclone win

Matt Gubbels

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The ISU volleyball team’s NCAA Tournament match with Northern Iowa Friday was starting to very similar to the first matchup between the two teams this season.

The Cyclones (20-12) won the first set, dropped the second and trailed in the third in Friday’s first round match, just like on September 10 when the Panthers (25-9) won 3-1. This time, however, Iowa State was able to storm back and win the third as well as the fourth set to send them to the second round.

The difference between the two matches was the runs the Cyclones were able to make late in the third set. In the first matchup, UNI went a 5-1 run to end the third set and carried that momentum the rest of the way.

This time, trailing 16-10 in set three, Iowa State scored the next six points and eventually won the last six points of the set to take a 2-1 lead before dominating the fourth set.

“We just got on a run,” senior Jen Malcom said. “When we get excited and start playing our game, it’s hard to stop us and we just found our groove.”

Coach Christy Johnson said this comeback was similar to the one her team made in the first round of last year’s tournament against San Diego.

“It’s something I think this group has seen way too many times,” Johnson said jokingly. “Having gone through that experience several times before allows them to get into that situation and not panic. We stay composed and understand that is only a matter of time before things turn our way.”

The first six-point run started with a kill from freshman Rachel Hockaday, who then went back to the service line and was able to take the Panthers out of system. That allowed sophomore Victoria Henson to pick up three of her 25 kills and Malcom and junior Kaylee Manns to team up for a block.

“We have a really young and it took a little bit to relax all of the freshmen,” Manns said. “Once that happened, we really got in a groove.”

UNI was able to bounce back and take five of the next eight points to take a 21-19 lead, but Iowa State showed its poise and made another run. Freshman Kelsey Petersen got the Cyclones a key sideout and sophomore Ashley Mass served out the set, picking up an ace and a kill from Hockaday.

“In rally scoring, it is tough to come back but you can do it if you get on a roll,” Johnson said. “We know it is always possible to come back. A lot of teams could have lost their composure and gave up but our kids stayed with it.”

With set four tied at 12, the Cyclones went on an 11-2 run kept Johnson’s first round record perfect at 3-0.

Malcom said the experience the core group of players had gained the two previous seasons was big.

“Some people do get nervous and even some of the older kids were nervous coming into this game,” Malcom said. “You just have to tell yourself it’s another game and play your hardest and that’s all you can do.”