Regional Round of 16 tournament run sets precedent

Matt Gubbels

MADISON, Wis. – Despite her team’s 3-0 round of 16 loss to California on Friday, ISU volleyball coach Christy Johnson remained positive about the direction of her program in the postgame press conference.

“It’s been a special time for us; we’re sorry to see it end,” Johnson said.

“It’s very exciting for me for the future, the notes I have been getting from recruits, I’m thinking we’re going to land some big kids here, based on our performance over the last couple of weeks.”

Johnson’s team in recent weeks has defeated three nationally ranked teams in No. 21 Oklahoma, No. 16 San Diego, and No. 7 Wisconsin on their home floor.

The Cyclones, who were also ranked nationally for the first time at No. 18 this week, took No. 3 Texas to the brink before losing to them in five.

Johnson said it was wonderful to watch her team, especially the seniors, overachieve over the last three weeks.

“We have been inspired by it as coaches, and their fellow players have been inspired by what our seniors have been able to do,” Johnson said.

“It’s exciting for the program and it’s exciting for the future – even more exciting than it was a couple of weeks ago.

“On paper, we probably shouldn’t do those things, but to see them accomplish that makes you think what can’t you do.”

The wins over San Diego and Wisconsin were in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in Madison and took Iowa State as far as it has ever been in the Big Dance.

Sophomore setter Kaylee Manns said the run to the Cyclones’ first-ever NCAA Regional showed the team what they were capable of.

“With the girls coming in, nobody thought this could really happen. It shows them we are a good team and we can play with the best teams,” Manns said.

“It shows younger players that anything can happen.”

Iowa State was 1-19 in the Big 12 during the seniors’ freshman year, but this group has helped lead the program back to prominence, winning 32 conference games during the last three seasons and making two consecutive runs in the NCAA Tournament.

Some of the players who will try to continue the upward trend are:

Junior middle blocker Jen Malcom, who broke senior Erin Boeve’s single-season block assists record with 159 Friday. Malcom also averaged 2.5 kills per game while hitting nearly .300 in her first season at Iowa State since transferring from Syracuse.

Sophomore Kaylee Manns has been a starter in her first two seasons and has the top two seasons in assists in Cyclone history, putting her fourth all-time with two seasons left.

Manns will have both of her outside hitters, redshirt freshman Victoria Henson and junior Mary Bisenius, back to set too, as well as sophomore Diane Kiegerand freshman Rachel Williams, who have shown flashes of strong play.

Freshman libero Ashley Mass returns after opening her career with the third-best season in digs in the program’s history. Mass also had the first 30-dig match in two years against Oklahoma on Nov. 24.

The Cyclones also have four new recruits coming in for the 2008 season. That includes Kelsey Peterson, the 60th-ranked recruit in the nation from Kearney, Neb., and Caitlin Mahoney, from Omaha, Neb., who holds the Nebraska career record for service aces.

Boeve said the success in the tournament has taken the program to new heights, and she is hoping to see the program continue to grow.

“Where this program has come in the past couple of years has really brought in some great recruits,” Boeve said.

“I’m just looking forward to keeping up with Iowa State and watching where this program will keep continuing to go.”