Iowa State’s seniors carry team to much-needed win

#14 Jess Schaben and #10 Grace Lazard work together to block a ball at the net. The Cyclones won Friday night, 3-1 against Kansas State. 

Matt Belinson

Having lost two consecutive road games, Iowa State returned home to Hilton Coliseum on a chilly Saturday evening to take on West Virginia, looking to sweep the season series with the Mountaineers for a fifth-straight season.

Jess Schaben and Grace Lazard, two of the seniors on the Cyclones’ roster, made sure Iowa State would keep that streak alive.

That being said, this was the first time in 15 days where both Schaben and Lazard were on the floor together.

During Iowa State’s losing streak, the team found itself without one of their most dependable players. Lazard was serving a two-game suspension during matchups against TCU and Baylor. This was the first suspension of Lazard’s career.

Lazard felt confident in her fellow senior’s play while she would be unable to play. Schaben had to take the leadership role as Lazard’s absence led to new lineups for Iowa State which led to miscommunication and errors according to coach Christy Johnson-Lynch.

Schaben and Lazard were the only two players for Iowa State with double-digit kills. The senior duo combined for 36 of Iowa State’s 56 kills.

“It felt so good to get things back to normal again,” Schaben said. “We were having issues with new assignments and roles so I am glad we got back on track by doing things the way we do them best.”

Schaben was one of the few consistent aspects for the Cyclones during the two game-skid, racking up a career high 26 kills against Baylor. 

“I would say her (Schaben) performance was elite, All-American level play from her against Baylor,” Johnson-Lynch said. “She never stops and continues to fight every game.”

Against West Virginia however, the play of both seniors propelled past a scrappy West Virginia team that despite being in last place in the Big 12, played Iowa State blow-for-blow in every set. When a big momentum shift was needed, Schaben or Lazard seemed to be there, starting in the second set.

The second set began with each team trading points back and forth to tie the set at 4-4 when West Virginia went on a roll. The Mountaineers proceeded to go on a 6-0 run but just when the crowd began to sulk into their seats, who else but Lazard responded with a massive kill. 

A short while after Lazard slammed home a much-needed point for Iowa State to stop West Virginia from pulling away too far, the Cyclones strung together a run of their own. 

The Cyclones went on a 5-0 run, bringing the set within striking distance again. Later on in the set, Iowa State found themselves down 20-19 but once again a senior provided a momentum boost for the team. 

West Virginia served and what followed was an over 15-hit rally. Iowa State received a volley from West Virginia, hoping to continue the long rally but Schaben delivered a strike for Iowa State, causing the entire crowd and bench to erupt with collective applause. Schaben’s hit tied the game at 20-20. 

Moving to the third set didn’t change the energy the seniors were providing. 

As hands in the crowd began to raise in the air, signaling with one finger that Iowa State needed one more point to win the match, Schaben was once again at the center of an Iowa State momentum crescendo. The very next possession, Schaben drove the ball down with force and gave the Cyclones the set victory, 25-22.

After Schaben gave Iowa State the victory in set three, Iowa State looked to close out West Virgina in set four. The fourth set played out like all the rest, with both sides fighting for each point.

“I hope her arm doesn’t fall off because we are setting her a lot,” Coach Johnson-Lynch said. “She never stops competing so I don’t think she will.”

Iowa State pulled away late and eventually needed just one more point to close out the match and the set. Lazard took the set from her teammate and gave the Cyclones the victory.

Lazard and Schaben have played side-by-side for four years and Lazard couldn’t hide her excitement for how Schaben has performed during her final season as a smile cam across Lazard’s face.

“It’s so exciting because she gives all she has every single game,” Lazard said. “It’s nothing new for her and I know that the people on this team look up to her because she leads by example every night.”