Volleyball focused on a game at a time ahead of NCAA tournament

Iowa State senior Brooke Andersen serves against No. 1 Texas in Iowa State volleyball’s 3-1 loss to Texas on Oct. 21

Aaron Hickman

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas.

It’s postseason tournament time, and Cyclone volleyball is preparing to go dancing as the team makes its return to the NCAA tournament.

Cardinal & Gold vs. the Cardinal

After a suspenseful evening watching the selection show, the Cyclones will match up against a very prestigious program in Stanford in the first round.

Stanford won it all as recently as 2019, and from 2016 to 2019, the Cardinal won it three times in four years.

The school also has the most NCAA volleyball championships of all time, with nine.

But let’s look at what the two teams have in common: Stanford and Iowa State are both programs that are back in the tournament after missing out on it last year. They both expect to be in the tournament every year, and they both have very high ceilings based on who the roster holds.

“When you’re out a year you realize you can’t ever take it for granted,” Iowa State Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. “We were sweating it. We were one of the last teams in this year. I’ve had a rock in my stomach all week because you just don’t know.”

Johnson-Lynch explained that this is one of the first years she hadn’t known before the selection show if her team would make it. Most years between wins and where the team was at in the RPI, she had an idea of what would happen.

For senior Brooke Andersen, getting back to the tournament means the world.

“That’s what you work for every day,” Andersen said. “To be able to come in here and work hard, for it to pay off is what we work for. We’re ready to compete and we’re ready to get after it.”

Second chances

Baylor and Minnesota are in Iowa State’s portion of the bracket, and they are opponents that the Cyclones struggled against in the regular season.

The team can’t afford to look that far ahead, but Iowa State could face off against the Golden Gophers in the second round and Baylor in the third.

Asked if getting a second chance against those programs provides any motivation, Johnson-Lynch was straightforward with her answer.

“I don’t look too far down the road,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We have a huge task ahead this weekend. That would be pretty amazing, but we’ve gotta take it one game at a time.”

Johnson-Lynch says the team has a lot of time to prepare for Stanford, but as far as the second night goes, the team has a great sense of familiarity with Minnesota.

Freshman Allie Petry has a very similar mindset to her head coach.

“We played Minnesota really early [in the season],” Petry said. “We need to win our first game, and then we’ve got a second shot at them. We know what we can do to beat them. We know their offense, and we know the court there.”

Heading north

For some members of the Iowa State volleyball program, being able to take a bus to Minneapolis makes for an ideal trip. For senior libero Marija Popovic, the trip comes as a bit of a disappointment.

“When we were on the selection show, [Candelaria Herrera] and I started jumping everywhere because we were like ‘we’re going to California!'” Popovic said. “Then they were like ‘no, we’re going to Minnesota.'”

She went on to say that Minneapolis is a nice city, but she had hoped to go somewhere farther away.

Eleanor Holthaus is from Richmond, Minn., which is just over an hour away from Minneapolis. Johnson-Lynch said being able to take a bus to a place they’re already familiar with is quite nice.

Regardless of everyone’s feelings on the travel situation, it’s clear that the squad is all in on getting out of Minneapolis with two wins.