Takeaways: Texas’ serving is too much to handle

Iowa State volleyball huddles together after winning a point against No.1 Texas on Oct. 22, 2021.

Aaron Hickman

On Thursday and Friday, Iowa State volleyball dropped both its matches against top-ranked Texas. The gap between the Longhorns and other teams in the nation was apparent.

Texas’ tough serving and ability to hold leads through physical play was tough for a Cyclones squad missing defensive star Marija Popovic.

Serving show

Each server had their own flair and style for Texas, but they all had one thing in common: their serves were incredibly tough for Iowa State to handle.

There was a media timeout in the second set, followed by Iowa State head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch taking two timeouts that were nearly back to back.

The decision was made to try and end the serving runs Texas was going on.

“A couple of those servers just went on runs,” Johnson-Lynch said. “With really great servers the first serve might just be in, the second one they serve harder, the third one is really hard and the fourth one is zipping across the net. They have some servers that can really get on runs if you allow them to.”

The Cyclones struggled with the side-out aspect of the game as serve after serve put them in a tough position to pass around and score a point. Texas is the best team Iowa State has faced this season, but they are not the only tough serving team in the conference.

Physicality mismatch

The size and physicality of Texas were a big mismatch for Iowa State. Iowa State had to try and contain players like Brionne Butler and Molly Phillips, who stand tall at 6’4 and 6’5.

“They are a team that hits very high,” Candelaria Herrera said. “A challenge for me was getting as high as they hit. I’ll keep working on it in practice.”

Because of the Longhorns’ size, they were able to win points even when they weren’t exactly in the best position to do so.

“They’re just a good offensive team,” Johnson-Lynch said. “They don’t always have to pass perfectly. They can kind of put it up in the middle of the court, put it high to their own sides and their outsides are so physical that they can get away with that a little bit.”

“I think it was just the fact that they’re a really good team, they don’t have a lot of weaknesses, and they also serve very tough and that’s not always true of even the great teams.”

Johnson-Lynch explained how Texas can come at you every rotation with their combination of serving, attacking and blocking, and it made it very difficult for Iowa State to sustain momentum for long periods of time.

Due to the amount of pressure they put on the Cyclones with their serving and size advantage, there was a point in every set where Texas was able to get up top and stay there.

Freshman impact

Although Iowa State was missing a very important piece player, Marija Popovic, freshmen Allie Petry and Brooke Stonestreet put in solid performances against a very difficult opponent.

Petry contributed three service aces, three assists and 22 digs over the two matches. Stonestreet had three service aces and seven digs.

Things could have gone a lot worse without Popovic, a high-caliber player, but the freshmen stayed composed and played their role well in both matches.

“It’s really exciting when I get my number called,” Stonestreet said. “Usually, I’m able to stay ready because they [the coaching staff] tell me to. The experience was awesome. It was so nice being out there and getting a chance to play with these girls.”

Although she did have a bigger role against Texas, Petry has seen quite a bit of action for the Cyclones this season. For Stonestreet, however, this was the most action she has seen in her young career.

The fact that both players were able to hold their own against an intimidating opponent in Texas is something positive to take away from the weekend, and it will contribute to their development and confidence moving forward.