Three Big Takeaways: Iowa State shows flashes of brilliance in exhibition


Iowa State volleyball celebrates after scoring in an exhibition versus Missouri on Aug. 19.

In a tightly contested match, Iowa State took down Missouri in five sets to cap off the preseason.

Iowa State traded sets with Missouri, clinching the match with a score of 15-10 in the fifth set. The match was an opportunity for Iowa State to practice different roster rotations and make last-minute adjustments headed into the regular season. 

With a tough road schedule to kick off the season, the Cyclones will look to keep the momentum rolling as they prepare for the Rumble in the Rockies event.


Back-and-forth match

The match looked precarious for Iowa State at times. The sets were tightly contested, and the Cyclones found themselves having to battle back from behind multiple times. 

Iowa State fell to an early deficit in the first set but fought back to retake the lead. A strong defensive effort helped shut down Missouri and provided Iowa State with a lead of its own. Iowa State shut down a comeback from the Tigers and captured the first set 25-21. 

Iowa State dropped the next set, failing to get past Mizzou’s wall of blockers. Senior Eleanor Holthaus and freshman Maya Duckworth kept the set competitive, but ultimately Iowa State fell short. 

The Cyclones dominated the third set but fell behind early in the fourth. Iowa State found themselves fighting to get back into the set again but fell short at 24-26. 

In the fifth set, the Cyclones faced an early deficit of 3-6 but came back to tie the score 9-9. With a heavy rotation of players, Iowa State found an offensive groove through senior Jaden Newsome, who racked up 27 assists, and Duckworth, who was a constant scoring threat. 

The Cyclones clinched the tightly contested final set 15-10 and won the match. 


Duckworth’s dominance

Duckworth had a commanding debut performance in her first match in front of a home crowd. She earned 17 kills and nine digs, contributing heavily to Iowa State’s attacking power. 

“I came into [the match] thinking ‘it’s just volleyball, I’ve done this my whole life, like, just relax and have fun,’” Duckworth said. She took over the second set, keeping Iowa State competitive in a hard-fought battle to score over Missouri’s stout defense. 

Duckworth continued her stellar performance throughout the match. Not only did she lead the team in attack attempts, but her nine digs helped prevent Missouri from taking over sets. 

With a strong debut, Duckworth can build off her performance and become a standout on Iowa State’s roster. Her ability to find kills combined with other key offensive pieces, like Newsome and senior Solei Thomas, will help the offense leap forward.

Outlook for the start of the season

While the exhibition match provided a look at a young Iowa State team, the main focus for the Cyclones was to make last-minute adjustments with the preseason coming to a close. Looking forward, Iowa State looks to solidify a more focused rotation of players. 

“We have 20 people on our roster, and everybody’s good,” head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. “So it takes time to, kind of, figure out the best combo of people and the best lineup.”

The lineup was very fluid against Missouri, as Johnson-Lynch aimed to find the most dangerous rotation of players. Eighteen players contributed to the win over Missouri, but that number will be trimmed down headed into the Rumble in the Rockies event. 

“We’ll just try some different things this weekend, see how it looks, continue to work on our energy in the huddle, that’s a big thing for us this year, and play hard no matter what,” Johnson-Lynch said. 

Iowa State will be tested on the road early, matching up against Creighton, Wyoming and Wichita State in Laramie, Wyoming, starting Friday.