Three Big Takeaways: Stanford was too much for Cyclones

Brooke Andersen communicates with her team before a serve against Stanford in the NCAA Tournament on Dec. 3.

Aaron Hickman

On Friday, Iowa State volleyball’s season came to an end with a first-round loss to the Stanford Cardinals in Minneapolis.

There was no shortage of effort or desire for the Cyclones, but key players for the Cardinals put in stellar performances that helped Stanford improve to 40-0 all-time in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Dynamic duo

Caitie Baird and Kendall Kipp combined for 42 of Stanford’s 60 kills in the match, which gave Iowa State a hard time on the block.

“They’re great players,” Iowa State head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. “We were there. We had blockers on them almost every play, but they are big, physical players with great arms. You’d think you lined up just right, then they’d hit it in a different way or hit it off the block.”

Johnson-Lynch said it wasn’t surprising that the ball went their way, as that’s what the team prepared for all week and saw on film. She also said both players were two of the better hitters she’s seen all season.

Kipp hit .417 while Baird hit .396, and they were the main catalysts of a .336 hitting performance by the team.

“It’s absolutely insane,” Stanford setter Kami Miner said about having the duo to set to. “It’s just so awesome to have people like that to play with.”

Fight to the end

Johnson-Lynch said if you go out, you hope to go out fighting. And that’s exactly what the Cyclones did.

Going against one of, if not the most prestigious, volleyball programs in the country, Iowa State kept things close through much of the first three sets before the Cardinals began to separate themselves.

“We knew coming into this match that they were going to be tough,” Stanford head coach Kevin Hambly said. “Christy’s teams always play hard and they’re always well prepared. They compete at a high level, and that’s what we got tonight.”

Desperately needing a second-set victory to keep hope alive and prevent a 2-0 deficit, the Cyclones put together one of their most impressive sets of the season.

Although they did end up falling three sets to one, that’s the kind of fight Iowa State had shown all season.

With plenty of adversity coming in different forms throughout the season, the team managed to fight their way back to the NCAA Tournament after the program’s poor season last year.

The journey ends

For Candelaria Herrera, Marija Popovic and Avery Rhodes, their Iowa State careers have officially come to a close.

Brooke Andersen, Taylor Baranski and Eleanor Holthaus are all four-year seniors who will have to decide whether or not they will use their waiver year to play in 2022.

No matter what happens, they all went out fighting in the season’s final match.

“I loved how we battled,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I loved how our team fought. I couldn’t say more about what we did tonight.”

Herrera played a complete match with 12 kills to go along with four blocks. Popovic had 11 digs, and Rhodes tallied a kill in the lone set she played.

Holthaus made the difficult look easy yet again with 15 kills and 12 digs, and Andersen had three kills and five digs.

Both Holthaus and Herrera reflected on their time at Iowa State, expressing gratitude for the time spent with teammates and coaches.

“Four years with a group of girls is a long time,” Holthaus said. “What I take away from that is that I’m very grateful. I have fought day after day with these girls, and we gave it our all. We show up every day and do our thing, and I’m just really grateful to have this experience and opportunity and to do it with them by my side.”

Herrera shared the same sentiment as Holthaus, saying she learned something from every teammate she’s had and that she sees everyone at Iowa State as her family.