Cyclones searching for the right lineup before facing off against Sooners

Iowa State volleyball players hold up their fingers in the Cyclones’ match against West Virginia on Oct. 30.

Aaron Hickman

Following a 1-1 split against West Virginia this past weekend, Iowa State volleyball is figuring out a game-plan for the upcoming matches against Oklahoma.

With a full week of practice in front of them, the team has been working on different lineups to prepare for the potential absence of Eleanor Holthaus and Marija Popovic (still out due to Big 12 Health and Safety Protocols) while also receiving a boost from the resurgence of Annie Hatch and the stellar introduction of Mariah Mitchell to the Big 12.

Searching for a lineup

Up until Popovic’s absence a couple of weekends ago, Iowa State had a lineup and system in place that was working. That got thrown off even more against West Virginia, as Holthaus and Popovic both missed Sunday’s match. With the status of both players still up in the air for this weekend, Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch has been using practice to find out what works with the players she has.

“We had literally no time to prepare when we found out we had two players out,” Johnson-Lynch said. “That’s what this week is for. How will we play our best? We’ll keep tweaking it all week and see what that system is. It’s nice when you’ve got a little more time to prepare and figure that out, and now we’ll have that time this week.”

At times during Sunday’s loss, the team looked out of sorts, which is expected when missing a two-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week and a consistent producer on offense.

Mitchell believes the team will do a better job of handling the pressure against Oklahoma.

“We played the hand we were dealt, and I’m hoping this coming weekend we can use this week’s practices to really get a lineup ready and come out stronger and more confident than we were this past weekend,” Mitchell said.

Annie, are you okay?

Hatch played as smooth as she has looked in a few weeks. Continuing to improve after a hampering injury, Hatch contributed eight kills in Saturday’s match and 13 in Sunday’s.

“I think I’ve felt better and better as time has gone on,” Hatch said. “I had to do a lot of mental work, getting that confidence back in being out there and trusting in myself. I think more reps and the team’s trust in me has helped a lot, too.”

Her production will be even more vital if Holthaus can’t play against the Sooners, so Hatch reaching full health came at a very fortunate time for the team.

“It’s great to see Annie back in her rhythm,” Johnson-Lynch said. “She looks like her old self again.”

More Mitchell

After introducing herself to the conference with 12 kills and two blocks Sunday, Mitchell will surely continue to be more involved in Iowa State’s game-plan. Mitchell was happy to play well and help the team, but she still wishes the opportunity had come in a different way.

“Of course it was really nice, but you can’t help but feel a little guilty under the circumstances that we’ve got our best people out,” Mitchell said.

For Johnson-Lynch, the output of Mitchell was very welcome for a team that is currently lacking offensively. Even more importantly, she was happy to see a good person take advantage of an unexpected opportunity.

“Mariah was awesome coming off the bench,” she said. “She’s been behind El all year so she hasn’t gotten a ton of opportunities, but we knew she was ready. We knew she had been playing well and she was ready to go. I’m really happy for her.”