Cummings’ play best so far, despite difficult transition

Matt Gubbels

ISU volleyball coach Christy Johnson thinks her senior right-side hitter Lauren Cummings has been playing the best volleyball of her career the last two weeks.

“The most remarkable part may be that she was playing on two sprained ankles for a while,” Johnson said. “She’s putting up huge numbers with a body that maybe isn’t as healthy as she would like it to be.”

Cummings, who was already playing with one sore ankle, sprained her other ankle when she came down on the foot of Texas’ Destinee Hooker in game four of a five-game loss to the Longhorns on Nov. 21.

She came back to finish that match and has since helped lead the Cyclones to their first NCAA Regional. Cummings has 62 kills in her last four matches, which include the Texas match, a Senior Night victory over Oklahoma and first- and second-round victories over San Diego and Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament, respectively.

Cummings said she is just trying to keep up her intensity so her teammates can feed off of it.

“I just know I’m coming to an end,” Cummings said. “I’m just trying to make myself play as well as I can and finish my career on a high note.”

The start of Cummings’ college volleyball career was very different from some of her teammates, however. Cummings played her first two years at Northwest Missouri State, but then decided to transfer to Iowa State in 2005, when the team was coming off of its first winning season in 10 years.

Cummings said the transition from Division II to Division I was tough for her at first.

“It took me a while to get oriented to the faster-paced game,” Cummings said. “That first semester was definitely a hard one, but I think that Dawn [Sullivan], Joe [Lynch] and Christy have been great coaches and have really helped me become a better volleyball player.”

Johnson said Cummings’ story of her transition from starting at Iowa State to now being a team leader is an inspiring one.

“I know that first semester she was here, there were some tears, and there were some questions of whether or not she should even be here or she could make it at this level,” Johnson said. “To go from that to being one of the best players on our team right now, having such a huge impact on our program, you don’t get to see that very often, so it’s neat to see her develop the way she has.”

Cummings has been a large part of both of Iowa State’s consecutive NCAA appearances and will now help lead her team to a place it has never been – the round of 16 – against the California Golden Bears. The fact the Cyclones have never been this far in the NCAA Tournament has not cutback on Cummings’ thoughts about her team’s potential for the rest of the tournament.

“I think we can make it to the Final Four; we are peaking at the right time,” Cummings said. “A lot of teams are not playing right now, we have to be thankful that we are. This being my last year, I’m definitely excited that I’m still playing right now. No matter what happens this weekend or maybe next weekend, I’m happy to be where we’re at. This is a great way to go out.”

Junior middle blocker Jen Malcom, who is considered Cummings’ twin by some members of the team, said she and Cummings try to pump the team up as much as they can with their aggressive play.

“It’s her senior year, and she doesn’t want to have it end,” Malcom said. “I know she’s playing on two bum ankles and giving it all she has. That makes me want to fight even more, so these seniors can keep going.”