Strong defense helps guide Iowa State volleyball to victory over Kansas


Right side hitter Eleanor Holthaus pursues a set from setter Piper Mauck on Oct. 16, 2019, in the Iowa State vs. TCU game. Iowa State won 3-0.

Megan Teske

In Iowa State volleyball’s second match against Kansas on Saturday, the Cyclones took down the Jayhawks in four sets.

The win ended an eight-game losing streak and was Iowa State’s first Saturday win this season.

A large part of the win Saturday was Iowa State’s ability to limit Kansas’ hitters, holding the Jayhawks to a .108 hitting percentage.

“Each of us were really dialed in on all their hitters, calling them out, where we thought that they were going to go and everything,” said junior right side hitter Eleanor Holthaus, who had five blocks Saturday. “I think that made a huge difference for us tonight.”

In Friday night’s match, Kansas graduate transfer outside hitter Jenny Mosser had 25 kills and a .338 hitting percentage. The Cyclones tried to adjust to stop her production, but she adjusted along with them and was able to keep generating kills.

It was a different story Saturday.

Iowa State held Mosser to eight kills and a .027 hitting percentage Saturday, changing the way she was able to impact the match.

“I’d say the biggest thing we worked on today was the back row setup especially,” senior setter Piper Mauck said. “She got a lot of shots down the line that we weren’t prepared for and just those small adjustments I think made a huge difference tonight.”

Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch also said they put the defenders in different spots depending on the situation and because of the amount of swings Mosser took Friday, Iowa State also tried to wear her down to slow down her production Saturday.

Johnson-Lynch said one of the best ways to slow down an attack is to serve strong and hit hard to keep the other team off balance, which is what Iowa State did Saturday.

Iowa State was also firing on all cylinders Saturday, hitting a .236 hitting percentage with 55 kills, 13 blocks and six aces.

“I thought our serving was really, really good,” Johnson-Lynch said. “… Serving is key and the fact that we got them chasing balls down, having to bump set, … when you limit those choices down to one or two, now your odds go way up of defending them.

“They very much work together. Your serve very much works with your defense, so I think our tough serving ended up affecting their hitting percentage quite a bit. It starts with serve.”

Holthaus said when passing, hitting, serving and blocking are all going good, it makes the game so much more smooth and easy.

Iowa State had 13 blocks to Kansas’ nine, and the third and fourth sets was when the Jayhawks offense was at its worst, or consequently, the Cyclones’ defense was at its best.

Kansas’ hitting percentage in set three was down to a .033 percent and a .053 hitting percentage in set four.

Holthaus said this was due to calling out hitters and being engaged.

“We worked on situational, like committing stuff, which was also very helpful,” Holthaus said. “Like who their key hitters are we were focused on them and then I don’t know we just had really good setups tonight, we were close and getting very good touches so our defense was able to move after balls.”

Senior middle blocker Candelaria Herrera led the Iowa State in blocks Saturday with seven, with junior outside hitter Brooke Andersen one block behind with six, her career high.

The Cyclones will play their final doubleheader against TCU on Nov. 20 and 21 in Fort Worth, Texas. The game will be available to watch on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.