Notebook: Communication, defense final focus for Cyclones

Abby Greiman goes up for a kill during Iowa State volleyball’s Spring Tournament on April 2, 2022.

Christian Royston

The spring volleyball season is nearing its end, and it’s grind time for the Cyclones to get in quality reps before the fall season arrives.

Iowa State has one tournament left before the spring season officially closes. That’s one more chance to figure out what’s working and what’s not and make the necessary adjustments for the fall.

Throughout the spring season, the Cyclones have made improvements across the board. With the loss of key players in key positions, such as the middle blocker and libero spots, many new players have gotten to prove themselves.

Competition is ramping up at the middle blocker spot, as the absence of unanimous All-Big 12 First Team selection Candelaria Herrera opens up the opportunity for a newcomer.

With the depth of talent at the middle blocker position, whoever steps up to the task will have to develop the skill required to sit atop that spot.

“They’re getting after it; they’re working really hard because they see that there is opportunity, and we need a lot of help at that spot,” head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said.

There are many solid options at the middle blocker position, and each player brings their own unique strengths to the court.

Alexis Engelbrecht was the only Cyclone who saw major playtime in the fall season. 

Abby Greiman was a significant contributor in the 2020 season before taking off most of the 2021 season due to surgery. Johnson-Lynch said that Greiman should be back to 100 percent, and it appears that she will go into the 2022 season healthier than ever.

The other big question mark on the roster was the last half of the middle blocker group in Kelsey Perry and Jordan Hopp. Despite the lack of play in the 2021 season, both players have displayed great improvement during the spring season.

Going into her second season with the team, Perry is ready to compete hard for a spot. The 6’4″, freshman from Frisco, Texas, graduated high school early to get reps at the collegiate level. 

Perry said the current skill level at the middle blocker is high and “That pushes us a lot in practice to compete and play our best game.”

Of course, with the battle for starting spots bringing out the best in the team, improvements have been easy to see. The main focus for the Cyclones was improving their offensive output.

The team has done a great job improving their offense as a whole and figuring out what works come game time.

Now that it seems the team has found a solid rhythm on offense, there are other parts of their game that are drawing more attention. Most notably, their defense and communication.

“We saw some things that we felt like were pretty glaring last weekend,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Let’s dial in and be real specific in trying to get better at those things.”

Over the weekend in Kansas City, Miss., many points were given up due to the defensive side of the ball. The offense and passing have looked good, so now dialing in the defense should help the team become more well-rounded.

A big focal point in improving through the spring season is focusing on improving communication. With the loss of seniors at various positions, new players will have to step up and fit into those leadership roles.

It is clear to see that as time goes on, the team will get more comfortable playing together, and communication should gradually improve as well.

“They are all getting better in different ways,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I think [we’ve] got a ways to go. I would say this group is a little more on the quiet side.”

One group where vocalness plays a big role is the libero position. The competition for libero is as intense as the middle blocker spot.

Paula Krzeslak came into her own during the spring season, answering many pre-season questions. It is clear that Krzeslak could play a significant role at the spot in the coming season.

The other two underclassmen who have a chance to get reps in the fall season are Allie Petry and Brooke Stonestreet. In the absence of the Big 12 Libero of the Year, Marija Popovic, Petry and Stonestreet put up 208 and 83 digs, respectively.

The playtime in the fall and the work they have put in during spring season have led to improvements.

“We are all trying to get better at our own positions and skills, and I think it’s going really well,” Petry said.

Petry and Stonestreet’s strong friendship also contributes to their teamwork. They are constantly pushing each other to get better. 

The two liberos are able to discuss their game on and off the court and have improved immensely since the fall season. Both Petry and Stonestreet sing nothing but praise for each other and demonstrate how strong of a bond they have.

“She’s like my best friend; she’s amazing,” Petry said. “We really support each other even though we are competing against each other.”

“We get along really well,” Stonestreet said. “It’s kind of an interesting dynamic because we do play the same position, but we don’t really let it affect how we are as people and roommates.”

The communication on and off the court has been key not only for the libero position but for all the players across the board. The team may not be as vocal as teams in the past, but they are becoming more comfortable around each other.

Johnson-Lynch also talked about how she is giving more responsibility to the players on the court. When there are big shoes to fill, players need to be able to step up and handle the pressure.

The players are doing just that.

Not only are players stepping up to fit into needed roles at every spot, but they are also setting and exceeding personal goals. Stonestreet talked about her goal of improving her serving, and it has paid off so far.

Johnson-Lynch talked with pride about how much the team has improved in many facets throughout the spring season, especially serving. The team puts their head down and works hard to make improvements.

“Throughout the season, we’ve worked on defense and serving, and working together and talking on the court,” Stonestreet said.

Whatever challenges sit in the team’s path, they are ready to take them head-on. They have just one last opportunity to see what issues may present themselves in live games.

The team’s strides have been enormous coming out of the spring season. The teamwork is improving, and the team that comes out to play in the fall season will be a better version of themselves.

“It’s a good group,” Johnson-Lynch said. “You can tell that they get along and just enjoy being around each other.”