VOLLEYBALL: Wildcats not the same team that swept Cyclones

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel talks at DMACC, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008, in the Ellipse Room at DMACC in West Des Moines. Photo: Logan Gaedke/Iowa State Daily

Logan Gaedke

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel talks at DMACC, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008, in the Ellipse Room at DMACC in West Des Moines. Photo: Logan Gaedke/Iowa State Daily

Kayci Woodley –

Kansas State may have taken both wins from the ISU volleyball team last year, but this season is a different match-up.

The Cyclones (12-8) are set to play Kansas State (17-3) on Wednesday night at Hilton Coliseum. The Wildcats are 7-2 in the Big 12, while the Cyclones are 4-5 in the conference.

Kansas State, with new players at key positions this season, give the Cyclones an advantage. The Wildcats have two setters, Abby Fay and Soriana Pacheco, which can lead to uncertainty on their side of the net.

Iowa State, on the other hand, has an experienced setter on their side of the net. With third-year starting setter Kaylee Manns, the Cyclones have an aspect of comfort the Wildcats lack.

“We know what she can do,” said coach Christy Johnson. “We know how good she is in the clutch and it makes us all a little more calm.”

Senior middle blocker Jen Malcom feels Manns is pivotal to the teams success.

“If anybody else is having an off night it’s OK, but Kaylee, she needs to have her A game. I think she does a great job of coming out ready every time,” Malcom said.

Kansas State graduated last year’s Big 12 “Libero of the Year,” Angie Lastra, while the Cyclones returned sophomore Ashley Mass to in the libero position.

“You just know what you’re going to get,” Johnson said. “You know how Mass is going to perform, so that keeps everyone at ease.”

Last year Kansas State showed strong serving against the Cyclones, with 17 aces in the two matches combined. It was a struggle for Iowa State last year because they weren’t used to receiving jump serves.

This year, however, the Cyclones see a jump serve every day in practice from freshman Caitlin Mahoney, who is second in the Big 12 in aces per game.

“I wouldn’t think it would make that much of a difference, but it really does because we see it every single day from her and she’s good at it,” Johnson said. “It really helps our passers be more comfortable passing a top-spin serve.”

The Wildcats have a very strong team, offensively, featuring outside hitters Rita Liliom and Natalya Korobkova, who lead Kansas State in kills. Liliom recently notched 1,000 kills in her career and up until Saturday led the Big 12 in kills. Victoria Henson, however, passed Liliom on Saturday, with her 30-kill surge. The battle between Henson and Liliom is sure to be seen Wednesday night.

“It’s a tough team to stop because they have so many offensive weapons,” Johnson said. “Their outsides and their right sides lead them in kills, but their middles, when they get the ball, are really effective.”

The Cyclones come into the game with a narrow loss to Colorado, while the Wildcats come into the contest with a sweep over Texas Tech. Iowa State hopes to take a win from the third-place team in the conference.

“We can beat anybody, and I think that if we just work really hard and have the mentality that we can do it and we can win, I think we can pull it off,” Malcom said.