Takeaways: Herrera and Cyclone offense beginning to gel, Mauck playing at setter

Senior middle blocker Candelaria Herrera and sophomore outside hitter Annie Hatch prepare for the next point against Baylor on Oct. 23.

Sam Stuve

Iowa State split its final home series of the season, losing to the Kansas Jayhawks on Friday but winning Saturday.

By winning Saturday, Iowa State ended a losing streak that began Oct. 3 with a loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Kansas and Iowa State are tied for sixth out of nine in the Big 12.

Before Saturday’s win, Iowa State hadn’t won the latter half of a doubleheader and had been on an eight-match losing streak.

Iowa State made adjustments on both sides of the net between Saturday and Sunday, senior middle blocker Candelaria Herrera has continued to be Iowa State’s most consistent offensive weapon and senior Piper Mauck has taken over duties at setter for the last couple of matches.

Iowa State cleaned up mistakes on both ends to win Saturday

Iowa State had a .236 hitting percentage Saturday — its highest since the Oct. 3 match against Texas Tech, where it had a .245 hitting percentage.

The offense hadn’t been Iowa State’s strong suit in recent weeks, as it hadn’t had a match where it hit above .200 since Oct. 9, against the Texas Longhorns.

In Saturday’s match against Kansas, it cut down on the number of attacking errors per set (8.6 to 7.75).

Attacking errors lost Iowa State the match Friday as it committed eight attacking errors in the fifth and final set, which it lost 17-15.

Junior outside hitter Brooke Andersen had the most errors in both matches against Kansas, with 15 errors combined.

Three of those 15 errors came at the end of set five Friday.

After the match, Iowa State Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch met with Andersen and had a discussion with her.

Johnson-Lynch said they talked about what the plan was for her in Saturday’s match and gave her a pep talk.

“Brooke does a lot for us, she carries a heavy load, she passes every rotation, gets a lot of swings and she’s running a lot in the back playing defense,” Johnson-Lynch said. “She’s carrying a heavy load and it’s her first time she’s done that; this is the first time she’s done that; she doesn’t have the experience that some others do.”

Andersen was effective Saturday, as she had 14 kills, but she also committed nine errors and had a .125 hitting percentage.

On the defensive end, she was one of Iowa State’s most productive players, having a career-high six block assists.

Her blocking helped slow down Kansas’ offense Saturday, which was led by graduate transfer Jenny Mosser on Friday.

Mosser destroyed Iowa State’s defense Friday, hitting 25 kills while having a .338 hitting percentage.

While she dominated the match Friday, the same couldn’t be said for Saturday.

Iowa State’s defense held Mosser to eight kills and a .027 hitting percentage, her second lowest of the season.

“The biggest thing we worked on [between matches] the back row setup, she got a lot of shots down the line [on Friday] that we weren’t prepared for and those small adjustments made a huge difference,” Mauck said.

Johnson-Lynch agreed with Mauck’s statement and said their back rows players were in a better position to receive balls.

Iowa State junior right side player Eleanor Holthaus said, “We were really dialed in, calling out where we thought their attackers were going and I think that made a huge difference.”

Defensively, Iowa State played very well Saturday, holding Kansas to a .106 hitting percentage, but Iowa State also had a much better offensive attack Saturday than it has had in recent weeks.

Iowa State had 13 team blocks Saturday, the most in a single match since the Oct. 3 match against Texas Tech.

Johnson-Lynch said part of the reason for the number of blocks Saturday was because of tough serving.

She said when a middle blocker knows the opposing setter is bump setting and there are only one or two passing options, the middle blocker can get to the spot she needs to be in instead of reacting late to the opposing team’s movement.

“I can’t emphasize serving enough, if you limit their options on the other side, you’re going to block more balls, you’re going to touch more balls on their attack, your defenders don’t have to rush into their spots quickly; they can take their time and be set early,” Johnson-Lynch said.

She said one player served and scored well: Herrera.

“She just had stretches where she would score three, four, five points in a row, which is something that’s difficult to do in high-level college volleyball,” Johnson-Lynch said.

Herrera had a career-high three service aces Saturday.

In recent matches, she’s been Iowa State’s most effective player.

Johnson-Lynch praises Herrera’s play

Three out of the last four matches have been Herrera’s best statistical outputs all season long.

She tied her season high for block assists with seven and digs with six Saturday.

This came one night after she set a career-high in kills with 20.

“I started a little bit off with the tempo, but I’m glad I could come back,” Herrera said. “I had a good feeling (connection) with our setters.”

She was the most effective attacker Iowa State had against Kansas on Friday and Saturday.

She had 30 total kills, the most of any Iowa State player against Kansas, as well as a .318 hitting percentage in both matches combined.

Johnson-Lynch said this stretch has been one of Herrera’s best in her three years at Iowa State.

“She’s having a really good stretch, she’s relaxed and she’s having fun,” Johnson-Lynch said.

In the last six out of seven matches, Herrera has either hit seven or more kills or had a hitting percentage above .300.

Herrera, who was a Preseason All-Big 12 player, is a member of the Argentina National Volleyball team that had qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

This season at Iowa State, she has scored the third highest point total on the team with 145.5 and third highest kill total with 111.

She is one of the best blockers in the Big 12, averaging 1.02 block assists per set, which is tied for fifth.

Johnson-Lynch said one of the players who connects with her really well is Mauck.

Mauck is earning more playing time at setter

For the majority of the season, junior setter Jenna Brandt has been the starter at the setter position.

Brandt started in the first match of the season against the Kansas State Wildcats, which was surprising because Mauck was an All-Big 12 Second Team Player and an America Volleyball Coaches Association All-Midwest Region player last season.

Brandt has been one of the better setters in the Big 12, averaging the seventh most assists per set with 8.67.

In the last two weeks, however, it’s been Mauck who has played the majority of the time.

“What she’s done nice lately is put up balls and showed consistency,” Johnson-Lynch said.

Mauck has been effective in the four matches played in the last two weeks.

Against West Virginia on Nov. 6 and Nov. 7, Mauck recorded a double double, recording 28 assists and 12 digs in both matches.

Brandt and Mauck split time at setter Friday, with Brandt having 36 assists and nine digs, while Mauck played in three sets, finishing with 16 assists.

Mauck played most of the match Saturday, finishing with 39 assists, three kills and a .286 hitting percentage.

“She’s that calm, steady kid that sometimes you need,” Johnson-Lynch said.

Johnson-Lynch said Mauck and Brandt are needed by the team at different times.

“If ever the team is feeling stressed and panicky, she’s (Mauck) a nice player to have in there because she’s pretty low key, but sometimes you don’t need that, sometimes you need someone like Jenna that’s intense and running all over the place.”

What’s next?

The Cyclones wrap up the 2020 season with a road trip to Fort Worth, Texas, to face the TCU Horned Frogs on Nov. 20 and Nov. 21.