Volleyball firsts are within reach

Matt Gubbels

The ISU volleyball team will attempt to accomplish two program firsts Wednesday night when it takes on the seventh-ranked Texas Longhorns in Austin.

The Cyclones (8-4, 2-0 Big 12), who received votes in the coaches’ poll this week, have not defeated a top-10 team in the history of the program, nor have they started the Big 12 season 3-0.

Coach Christy Johnson said she hopes the momentum the team has picked up from its recent seven-game winning streak and opening Big 12 wins over Baylor and Texas A&M carries over to Wednesday.

“I’ve always said, in the Big 12, because we play Wednesday [and] Saturday, by the time you play the next match, you’ve already forgotten what happened a few days before,” Johnson said. “I think being able to play with our lineup a little bit was good to see in preparation for Texas.”

Junior middle blocker Jen Malcom said the team is doing the little things to get wins, which should help them against Texas.

“I think we’re starting to work as a team right now,” Malcom said. “I’m hoping we can bring our ‘A’ game and beat them down there.”

Beating the Longhorns (5-3, 1-1 Big 12) at Gregory Gymnasium may be a formidable task, however. Texas, an Elite Eight team from a year ago, has yet to lose at home. Their three losses came on the road to teams rated in the top three in the nation.

The Longhorns split their first two Big 12 matches, losing 3-0 to No. 1 Nebraska before defeating Missouri, 3-0. The loss to the Cornhuskers, however, was without Destinee Hooker, who was suspended but is still second in the Big 12 in kills behind Nebraska’s Sarah Pavan.

The key for the Cyclones, who are first in blocks in the conference, is slowing down third-ranked Texas’ hitting attack.

The two teams have the reigning Big 12 players of the week, who are both freshmen. Iowa State’s freshman libero Ashley Mass, who was named Defensive Player of the Week, will be one of the people trying to slow down the attacks of the Offensive Player of the Week, Longhorn outside hitter Juliann Faucette and her teammates.

One of the members of that attack will be missing, however. 2006 Freshman of the Year Ashley Engle, a right-side hitter, has been battling an ankle injury and has not played since Texas’s season-opening losses at Penn State.

The Cyclones have defeated Texas twice in their history, both at Hilton Coliseum, including once under Christy Johnson, when Texas was ranked 18th in 2005.

Junior Amy Vos said the team is going to give everything they have for a victory.

“It is a fun atmosphere down there,” Vos said. “We’re going to give it everything we got and I’m sure we’ll do well.”