Rhodes’ homecoming, senior leadership things to watch against Baylor

Jaden Newsome is seen preparing herself to serve the ball.

Aaron Hickman

With the final two matches of the regular season approaching, Iowa State volleyball sits at third in the Big 12 behind Texas and Baylor.

The weekend trip to Waco, Texas, will be very important in determining the team’s seeding for the conference tournament, as well as give an idea of what NCAA tournament seeding can be expected.

Holding serve

It is important for Iowa State to hold serve this weekend, both on the court and in the standings.

Yeah, yeah, it’s a tennis term. But you understand.

Sitting in third with two matches against No. 7 Baylor coming up, the team is in an interesting spot in terms of how schedules worked out.

The Cyclones are the only team in the conference that finishes their season this weekend, with everyone else finishing next week and most teams having four matches left. Without next weekend to boost its standing, it is imperative for Iowa State to steal at least one match in Waco before the team has to sit and watch how things play out.

It could be a long fall if things don’t work out in the team’s favor, but Senior Marija Popovic has a confident mindset going into the weekend.

“We should play all out,” she said. “Baylor is a big name, so I think that can get into people’s heads, but I think we just need to play with a clear mind.”


Senior Avery Rhodes will be making her final trip to Waco as a Cyclone with plenty of motivation to perform.

“It means a lot for me because that’s my hometown,” Rhodes said. “You always want to beat your hometown team.”

Rhodes has tallied eight total kills and four total blocks in the two matches she’s played back home, and she’s done it on an impressive .462 hitting percentage.

Iowa State hasn’t won a single set in Waco since Rhodes made Ames her new home, but the hope is that the third time is the charm.

Some of the younger players on the team have yet to experience the atmosphere against a top program like Baylor, and Rhodes’ message to them is simple.

“You have nothing to lose,” Rhodes said. “Just go out there and have fun, and always smile because you’re on TV.”

Wealth of experience

Even with the few young players that have earned significant playing time for Iowa State, the average starting lineup is much more experienced than the rest of the country.

The most recent starting lineup used against Kansas State was made up entirely of seniors, and that provides a great sense of stability for Iowa State head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch.

“For every team I’ve ever coached in every season, you get to November and it’s like ‘man, we’ve been doing this for a long time,’” Johnson-Lynch said. “People are tired. People are sore. Mentally you get a little fatigued, so you need experience and leadership to kind of push through that grind. We’re fortunate we have people who’ve done this many times already, and their experience means a lot right now.”

After a disappointing result on Senior Day against Kansas State, this senior class has more ahead of them before they call it a career.

The common talking point is to go out and compete like it’s your last match, and Senior Jaden Newsome summed up what the mindset looks like in all of these high intensity match-ups.

“Just make sure we come every day playing relentless and all out.”