Notebook: Johnson-Lynch discusses setter position, injury update on Michal Schuler

Iowa State volleyball faced Penn State on Sept. 6, 2019. Penn State won 3-0.

Sam Stuve

In Iowa State volleyball’s first weekend of action, some storylines began to develop.

Junior setter Jenna Brandt got the starting nod against Kansas State over senior setter Piper Mauck, who was a 2019 All-Big 12 Second Team and American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Midwest Region Team player. 

Fellow junior, outside hitter Brooke Andersen had the best individual offensive performances of her career as she had a career high 13 kills Friday and 12 kills Saturday.

Andersen’s production is valuable, especially since Iowa State is still without sophomore outside hitter Michal Schuler, who has been sidelined for the past couple of weeks with a sprained ankle and is still listed as “week to week.”

 Iowa State has options at the setter position

With Jenna Brandt’s solid performances against Kansas State on Friday and Saturday, Iowa State may play two setters consistently throughout the year.

“She does a lot of really good things for us, she’s really good out of system (a team is considered out of system when it receives a difficult attack from the opponent or a ball that is passed in a way to make a set difficult) setter, she was very active by dumping the ball over on Saturday night,” Iowa State volleyball Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. “She adds a lot of energy to the team and I thought it was a really solid start for her.”

Mauck was in uniform for both matches against Kansas State, but didn’t play because of the coach’s decision.

“That setting position is so competitive,” Johnson-Lynch said. 

Based on her production against Kansas State, Brandt might be the front-runner for the starter at the setter position. 

Johnson-Lynch did not eliminate the possibility of Mauck and Brandt splitting time at setter. 

“I think Jenna seems more comfortable right now, she’s so good at chasing down balls out of system, bump setting and being active and there are parts of her game that are really good right now, but there are also parts of Piper’s game that are really good right now,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I can see using them both; I think they can both play. I see the opportunity depending on what we need.” 

Johnson-Lynch said Brandt and Mauck are two very different types of setters and who gets the starting nod week in and week out may depend on who Iowa State is playing.  

In regards to Friday and Saturday’s upcoming matches against Texas Tech, Johnson-Lynch said it is “still up in the air” on who is going to start.

Brandt had 90 assists and a .474 hitting percentage in both matches combined against Kansas State. 

She had a career high 47 assists Friday and a career high in individual hitting percentage (minimum at least ten attacks), with a percentage of .636 Saturday.

“I had to be offensive to make a difference,” Brandt said. “By being offensive, I was hopefully able to get a block on me to open up my hitters.

“I thought that I brought a lot of energy to the court and was able to run down balls and set my team up in a good position.”

Brandt is fourth among Big 12 players in assists per sets, with an average of 10, Texas’ junior setter Jhenna Gabriel leads the Big 12 with 13.57. 

Before her starts Friday and Saturday, Brandt had played in 28 matches, starting in seven and had 261 assists in 55 sets (4.75 assists per set) and a .143 hitting percentage. 

Her .474 hitting percentage is currently the best by any Cyclone. 

Another Cyclone who had productive outings against Kansas State was Andersen.

Andersen is making an impact offensively

Second on the Iowa State team in kills is Andersen, who has 25 kills, two behind 2019 All-Big 12 First Team player, 2019 AVCA All-Midwest Region Team player and 2020 preseason All-Big 12 unanimous selection junior right-side player Eleanor Holthaus.

Andersen had a career high in kills with 13 Friday, while hitting a good hitting percentage of .268. She said there were a whole lot of things that led up to this. 

“I was able to keep it high handed and use their (the opponents) block, which we have been practicing a lot,” Andersen said. “Jenna [Brandt] was also able to get me good sets out to the pin [side].”

Andersen said she was able to read the defense and where they were playing, but was also aggressive and mixed up the type of shots she took. 

Last season Andersen only had 44 kills total, mostly because she wasn’t a starter, as she started in only four of the 20 (out of 29) matches she played in. 

So far in this young season, Andersen has shown improvement on the offensive end.  

Andersen said her growth from last season to this season is because of her aggressiveness.

“I’ve become a lot more aggressive, hitting higher and not trying to bury the ball, but be able to use the block and find different shots to score,” Andersen said. 

Andersen said she has been focusing on improving her blocking and “playing the game simply.”

Andersen also said she’s been focusing on finding what kind of player she is and using her strengths against the opponents’ weaknesses.  

Johnson-Lynch previously said, “Brooke Andersen is playing as well as I’ve ever seen her. She’s jumping higher, more physical and just playing really well.”

Schuler is still “week to week” with a sprained ankle 

Iowa State has been without Michal Schuler for the past couple of weeks now as she has been sidelined with a sprained ankle.

Schuler missed Iowa State’s Cardinal and Gold Scrimmage on Sept. 18 as well as Iowa State’s matches against Kansas State on Friday and Saturday. 

The good news for Cyclone fans is Schuler is beginning to get back on the court, according to Johnson-Lynch.  

“She is still recovering, she’s starting to get back on the court a bit and doing a little bit of stuff, but there’s no decision yet (on when she is healthy enough to play again), so we’ll take it week by week,” Johnson-Lynch said.  

What’s next 

Johnson-Lynch said she is confident about the team’s potential going forward. 

The Cyclones won one match but also lost one match in the doubleheader against Kansas State.

Johnson-Lynch said if they would’ve executed a few points a little better, Iowa State would’ve won both matches.

“Considering all that’s happened and all we didn’t know about Kansas State, I am pleased with the weekend,” Johnson-Lynch said.

Iowa State (1-1) hosts the Texas Tech Lady Raiders (1-1) at 4 p.m. Friday and 12:30 p.m. Saturday in front of no fans at Hilton Coliseum.

Both matches are available online via streaming on ESPN+.