Takeaways: Poor offense overshadowed good defense against second-ranked Baylor

Iowa State senior middle blocker Candelaria Herrera goes for a kill against No. 2 Baylor on Oct. 24. Baylor beat Iowa State 3-0 Oct. 24.

Sam Stuve

Iowa State volleyball didn’t have things go its way in both matches against the second-ranked Baylor Bears. 

In six sets played, Iowa State lost all of them.

While that is not great, there are some positives mixed in with the negatives. 

Iowa State’s lack of efficiency on the offensive end overshadowed its strong defensive play and good performances from freshmen, who had to play due to other players being injured.

Iowa State struggled to kill against Baylor

Iowa State struggled to get the kills it needed to knock off second-ranked Baylor on Friday and Saturday.

In total, Iowa State only had 69 kills in both matches combined, while Baylor had 83. 

Coming into the matches against Baylor, Iowa State had the third-best hitting percentage out of nine in the Big 12 at .223.

In Friday and Saturday’s matches combined, Iowa State had a .121 hitting percentage.

Iowa State had a single match season-low hitting percentage Saturday, hitting just .078.

Baylor’s tall middle blockers had an effect on Iowa State.

“They were just big…we came out aggressively against their block, but they’re big and we needed to cover those balls that were getting blocked,” Iowa State junior outside hitter Brooke Andersen said. “We had to go back at it again and again and again, to score on them so I just think that they’ve got a great defense.”

Iowa State Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said Baylor is a really good blocking and defensive team.

“That’s what makes it so tough…what’s underappreciated from them is how strong their block and defense is,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We had stretches where we just could not get kills and we got stuck in rotations.”

Iowa State’s offense was inefficient at the worst times against Baylor. Johnson-Lynch said in practice this coming week, the team will have more of an emphasis on endgame and end of the set situations.

While Iowa State struggled on the offensive end, it didn’t on the defensive end.

Defense showed potential against Baylor

In five out of the six sets the Cyclones played against the Bears, the Cyclones held the Bears to well below its season average in hitting percentage.

The Bears had its two worst single match hitting percentages against the Cyclones, as they hit .255 Friday and .145 Saturday.

“We were ready, organized and knew what was coming at us and how to set up [defensively] against them,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We had a good idea of what to expect and I thought we put ourselves in the right spot most of the time.”

Johnson-Lynch said she’s satisfied with the Cyclones’ defensive effort but the team could’ve dug more balls and chased down more balls.

The Cyclones on average give up a .239 hitting percentage.

The Bears, who averaged one of the best hitting percentages in the NCAA, as they were averaging above .300, were held to an under .300 hitting percentage in five out of six sets.

The Bears only hit above .260 in two sets (set three Friday and set two Saturday). 

Reigning Big 12 Player of the Year and 2020 Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, senior outside hitter Yossiana Pressley, had her struggles against the Cyclones.

While she did reach double digits in kills in both matches, she didn’t get there efficiently.

Pressley had 23 kills on 68 attacks and committed 15 errors.

Baylor’s offense didn’t have the best outing against Iowa State, but its defense made up for it.

The Bears had success on defense, partially because the Cyclones had some players out with injuries.

Iowa State freshmen get playing time because of injuries

Iowa State junior middle blocker Avery Rhodes walked around in a walking boot Friday and Saturday because of a foot or ankle injury she suffered in practice.

“Offensively it took away some of our options,” junior setter Jenna Brandt said.

Because of Rhodes’ injury, freshman middle blocker Alexis Engelbrecht made her first start of her career Friday.

Engelbrecht had one kill and three blocks in Friday’s match.

While she made the start Friday, she wasn’t available for Saturday’s match. 

Engelbrecht didn’t play because of “nagging injuries” according to Johnson-Lynch.

Johnson-Lynch said she is hopeful Engelbrecht will be back at practice in the next couple of days.

Iowa State redshirt freshman middle blocker Abby Greiman made her collegiate debut for Iowa State because of Rhodes’ and Engelbrecht’s injury.

Greiman had four kills on six attacks, a .666 hitting percentage and three blocks.

Brandt said an advantage of having Engelbrecht making her debut Friday and Greiman on Saturday is that the defense doesn’t exactly know what they’re going to do.

Johnson-Lynch praised Greiman’s play on Saturday.

“I think she did terrific,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We didn’t set to her a lot, but we found out that we can probably set to her more.”

Johnson-Lynch said she thinks the team was unsure of how she would do, but she said she had a solid impact on the match.

“It’s a cool story, if you would’ve seen Abby last year at this time compared to where she is now, she’s improved by miles,” Johnson-Lynch said. “She’s a solid, smart player and person.”

Johnson-Lynch said Greiman has improved on her blocking, her ability to read opponents and her attacking ability. 

“It’s just really cool to see someone come so far in one season,” Johnson-Lynch said.

With Rhodes and Engelbrecht dealing with injuries, Iowa State has only two 100 percent healthy middle blockers, Greiman and senior Candelaria Herrera.

Johnson-Lynch said it’ll be a bonus when those players (Rhodes, Engelbrecht and sophomore outside hitter Michal Schuler) are back, but that the team’s problems are still there.

“We have to play well in the endgame, we can get to point 20, then those teams score all those points in a row,” Johnson-Lynch said.

What’s next?

Iowa State (2-6) continues its home stand with home matches against the Oklahoma Sooners (2-6) at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Hilton Coliseum.