VOLLEYBALL: Cyclones head down home stretch

Matt Gubbels

The ISU volleyball team dominated the Oklahoma Sooners on Oct. 4 in Ames.

What a difference six weeks have made.

The Cyclones (17-11, 9-8 Big 12) travel to Norman Saturday to take on the Sooners (11-15, 7-11), who have since upset No. 4 Texas on the road and taken No. 13 Kansas State to the brink of an upset twice.

Coach Christy Johnson said her team has to understand that the team they saw in Ames will be different than the team they will see on the road.

“You don’t know what to expect because it has been so long, and the teams have changed so much,” Johnson said. “Although you are somewhat familiar with the personnel, a lot of different adjustments need to be made in between playing them.”

Iowa State hit .396 in the first matchup, its second-best offensive night of the season, while holding Oklahoma to .086. The Sooners, however, are holding opponents to just a .177 hitting percentage in conference matches, and are second in the conference in digs per set.

The Sooners are coming off a tight five-set loss to Texas A&M, while the Cyclones bounced back from a bad first set to defeat Colorado in four sets on Wednesday. Johnson said their passing and defense have been the keys to making every match a tight one, even helping them overcome some of the more powerful teams, such as Texas.

“They try to make it a tight game and win some of those close ones,” Johnson said. “They don’t necessarily overpower you, but they do play great defense, and hold on, and win tight games.”

The match with the Sooners opens the Thanksgiving break and stretch run for the Cyclones. Iowa State has three more matches to solidify their NCAA Tournament resume for the selection committee on Nov. 30.

One of the criteria for the selection committee is the RPI, where Iowa State is ranked No. 39. The Cyclones have wins over No. 17 Kansas State, No. 21 Florida International, No. 48 Creighton and two wins over No. 49 Baylor.

Another criteria is road wins, and Iowa State could improve its record there with a win at Oklahoma, as well as a rematch in Manhattan with Kansas State before closing out the season in a match against Kansas at home.

Johnson said this time of the year is crucial, especially with the Cyclones just one game ahead of Texas A&M and Baylor for fourth place in the Big 12.

“At the same time we can’t get too wrapped up in it or thinking down the road,” Johnson said. “I think the team can see the light at the end of the tunnel, where you are through the toughest part of that grind.”

Iowa State picked up a key win over a No. 21 Oklahoma team in the last match of the season a year ago, which was the day before the NCAA Tournament field was revealed.

“We’re getting to the most exciting part of the season,” Johnson said. “We don’t have a whole lot left, so hopefully we can come to practice with a renewed sense of energy for these last couple of weeks.”