Volleyball aims to build on 2006 success

Travis Cordes

After recording what was arguably the most successful season in program history in 2006, the ISU volleyball team is preparing to embark on another groundbreaking season this fall.

In 2006, the Cyclones became a hidden jewel of ISU athletics, as they went 21-11 on their way to reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament and posting a winning conference record for the first time since joining the Big 12 in 1996.

Iowa State swept Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, marking its second-ever win in the postseason tournament. The Cyclones finished the season ranked No. 29 in the nation.

Outlook for 2007

Season three of the Christy Johnson era will begin Aug. 26, when Iowa State will face Middle Tennessee, a second-round team in the 2006 tournament, to open the season at Hilton Coliseum. This will kick off a very challenging schedule for the Cyclones, which includes matches against 15 NCAA qualifiers from last season.

The Cyclones have improved exponentially since Johnson’s arrival in Ames, and all signs indicate that the next step is not far off the horizon.

“Last season we were on the verge of becoming a great program,” said coach Christy Johnson. “That’s exactly where we want to be this season; a team that can crack the top 20 for most of the year and advance to the round of 16 in the tournament. I think we have the talent we need to take our success one step further.”

The coach

After taking the reigns of the program in 2005, Johnson has made an immediate impact on ISU volleyball.

The program had won 13 of 180 conference matches and had never finished higher than eighth in the conference in the previous nine years.

In just two seasons, Johnson won 23 of 40 conference matches, and snapped losing streaks of 18 matches against Missouri, 20 to Kansas State and 21 to Texas A&M.

Johnson, who saw plenty of NCAA Tournament action as an assistant at Wisconsin, also won a national championship in 1995 as an All-American setter at Nebraska, leading the Cornhuskers to a 63-2 record in her junior and senior seasons.

Returning starters

The Cyclones lost four seniors from last year’s team, but still return four players that either started or received significant playing time

“You’re always going to be worried about losing four starters,” Johnson said. “But after moving some players around and watching the way we played in the spring, we may be a little better team all-around this year.”

The team will be led by senior Erin Boeve, who became the first Cyclone volleyball player to earn All-American honors when she was named an honorable mention last season.

Joining Boeve will be seniors Lauren Cummings and Laura Cady, as well as sophomore setter Kaylee Manns, who as a freshman posted 19 double-doubles on her way to breaking the single-season record for set assists.