Takeaways from Iowa State volleyball’s win over Oklahoma

Outside hitter Jess Schaben jumps to hit the ball towards Kansas State during the game at Hilton Coliseum on Oct. 26. The Cyclones won 3-1.

Spencer Suckow

Iowa State volleyball swept Oklahoma in its final road match of the regular season to move to 14-13 on the year.

Schaben continues her hot streak

Ahead of Wednesday’s match against Oklahoma, coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said that senior outside hitter Jess Schaben seemed to be playing like she was “on a mission” in Iowa State’s last two matches.

Schaben had a combined 48 kills against Baylor and West Virginia, and she continued that high level of play in Norman on Wednesday. Schaben notched a double-double with another 18 kills to go with 11 digs on the evening, while hitting the ball at a .286 attack percentage.

The Cyclones have relied heavily on Schaben all year, but the senior has stepped it up a notch with a few guaranteed games left in an Iowa State uniform. Schaben’s volleyball career won’t be over after this fall, as she’ll play beach volleyball for LSU in the spring as a graduate transfer, but the senior is clearly doing everything possible to end the Iowa State portion of her career on a high note.

Holthaus shines in return

In her first game back at her natural position of right-side hitter, freshman Eleanor Holthaus played a key role in Iowa State’s victory on Wednesday.

Holthaus hadn’t played at the right-side spot since Oct. 26 against Kansas State, as she was moved to middle blocker for the TCU game with senior Grace Lazard suspended. However, during the TCU game, Holthaus suffered a concussion that kept her out of the last two contests.

On Wednesday, though, Holthaus looked every bit like the high-level player she has been most of the season. Holthaus had 13 kills and five digs, all while attacking at an impressive .650 percent clip.

Even as a freshman, Holthaus has been a major cog for the Cyclones, and likely figures to play a key role down the stretch as the team tries to make a last-second push toward the NCAA tournament.

Beyond that, however, Holthaus has proven during her first year in Ames that she’ll likely be a quality player for Iowa State for years to come. Regardless of how this season ends, Christy Johnson-Lynch has to be excited about Holthaus’ future.

Is there any hope for an NCAA tournament bid?

It seems like quite a bit needs to happen, but the Cyclones likely aren’t dead — at least not yet.

First and foremost, the team will likely have to win out in order to have any chance of getting a bid. That would give the team a 16-13 record overall, with a 9-7 record in Big 12 conference play. The good news on that front is that both games are at home, and are against beatable opponents.

The Cyclones defeated their next opponent, Kansas, on the the road already this year, and despite losing on the road to Texas Tech, their final opponent, the Red Raiders aren’t exactly world-beaters with a 5-8 record in conference play. Winning both games would ensure that Iowa State finishes near the middle of the pack in the Big 12.

The problem is, Iowa State’s hole might be too deep. With no hope of winning the conference, the Cyclones have to hope that they earn one of the 32 at-large bids. Similar the NCAA basketball tournaments, 64 teams are selected based on a variety of different factors, such as RPI and strength-of-schedule.

Iowa State has certainly had a tough schedule, but the team’s RPI was 78 coming into the evening, good for seventh of nine Big 12 teams. That will improve with a win over Oklahoma, as well as with subsequent wins over Kansas and Texas Tech, but it’s fair to wonder just how much ground Iowa State can make up in that regard.

The only way for the Cyclones to have a chance, it seems, is to win out and let the chips fall where they may.