Notebook: Iowa State up to the challenge after timely bye week

Brooke Andersen gets ready for the next serve against TCU on Sept. 25.

Aaron Hickman

Coming off of a bye week, the 12-5 (4-2 Big 12) Iowa State volleyball squad is being thrown right back into the proverbial fire with a matchup against the No. 1 Texas Longhorns.

With an extra week to prepare, the Cyclones used the time to get some rest and focus on certain aspects of their play.

Much-needed break

With the amount of time the Cyclones have spent on the road this season, as well as how difficult the Big 12 schedule can be, the bye week came at a great time for players like Eleanor Holthaus.

“As a player, I really appreciate the bye week,” Holthaus said. “It allows you to take that mental break that is really needed. It allows you to reset and relax, and I’m very thankful we had it at the time we did.”

Candelaria Herrera had a slightly different take on the bye week, acknowledging the benefits of it while also admitting to missing out on the action.

“It’s a good thing,” she said. “We get to rest and keep working on stuff, but at the same time it’s a lot of rest. I’m kind of anxious about the games and I kind of hope that we can keep playing, but it’s a good thing for the team.”

Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said many of the same benefits of the bye week apply to the coaching staff, too, and she explained what makes it so great for the players.

“A mental and physical break is really nice this time of year,” Johnson-Lynch said. “The players appreciated it. They enjoyed the weekend, they got to have some down time, and a lot of them went home.”

Sports are just as much mental as they are physical, and when you are a student-athlete the mental aspect can seem that much more taxing. The break provided the time to relax, see family and improve that the team doesn’t get any other time of the season.

Preparation is key

The players and coaches didn’t spend the entire time relaxing. With two matches against the No. 1 Longhorns approaching, plenty of time was spent preparing for the toughest opponent of the season.

“We’ve been focusing a lot on attitude and effort,” Brooke Andersen said. “It’s a game of momentum, so it’s important that we keep communicating with each other and finding ways to win rallies and win games. Communicating and being able to serve and pass is huge when it comes to winning games in the Big 12.”

Holthaus said the team also focused on staying aggressive and being tough, as well as technique and fundamentals. “With the off week we were able to take that break, but we were still getting after it,” she said.

Johnson-Lynch said the team didn’t work on anything too crazy or different and that serving continues to be a point of focus for the team.

“During Big 12 play, our serving has to be really strong, especially when we’re playing some really offensive and physical teams,” Johnson-Lynch said. She also said blocking and connections with the team’s setters were on the bye week checklist.

No pressure

Focusing on themselves and controlling what they can control has been a common phrase for the Iowa State volleyball program, and this week is no different.

“We just need to focus on us,” Holthaus said. “We need to communicate and go all out. I think if we just stay true to our side of the net we’re going to be okay.”

Andersen echoed her teammate, saying that the team just needs to stick to who they are. She believes the team needs to establish a rhythm and stay in system to make things tougher on Texas.

Expectations are high for the Longhorns, and they should be considering their ranking. They have to come into Hilton and beat a team that they are considered to be better than, and the Cyclones believe they are more than ready for the challenge.

“It’s a huge blessing and opportunity that we get to play the number one team in the nation, and we’re going to go out there and give it our all,” Holthaus said. “We’re really excited.”

Herrera summed up the team’s approach with a confident and definitive statement.

“It’s gonna take a lot of effort from everyone,” Herrera said. “They are a great team, and we’re gonna be fired up. They have the pressure to win and we don’t, and that’s an advantage we have.”