Iowa State faces important matchup against West Virginia


Wesley Winterink

Iowa State’s Candelaria Herrera and Annie Hatch block a kill attempt against No.1 Texas on Oct. 22. (Photo courtesy of Wesley Winterink/Iowa State Athletics)

Aaron Hickman

Despite dropping both matches to the top-ranked Texas Longhorns last week, Iowa State volleyball remains in third place in the Big 12 Conference. With two matches approaching against the West Virginia Mountaineers, who are fifth in the conference, the Cyclones need to perform well in order to stay among the best in the Big 12.

The Mountaineers come into the weekend with a record of 13-6 (3-5), while the Cyclones aren’t too far ahead at 12-7 (4-4). This is why it is imperative for Iowa State to win both matches and keep their spot in the standings.

Similar to Iowa State with Candelaria Herrera, West Virginia has a middle-blocker in Briana Lynch who is very involved both offensively and defensively. Lynch leads the team in blocks with 70, and she is second on the team in kills with 187.

“They [West Virginia] do involve their middles quite a bit in their offense, so we need to serve tough to take that away,” Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. “[We need to] play relentless defense, and we need a little bit more offense out of each of our positions.”

Johnson-Lynch noted an important aspect will be whether or not the team can keep a balanced offense and get open looks for their hitters in order to hit much more efficiently than they did against Texas.

The Cyclones only hit .000 in the first match against the Longhorns and .118 in the second. Much of the team’s problems stemmed from Texas’ great serving and physicality forcing bad passes and attacking errors.

West Virginia is second to Texas in the Big 12 when it comes to opponent hitting percentage, so the Cyclones could run into many of the same problems if they don’t improve their side-out percentage.

“I think we can pass a little bit better and be a little more solid with that,” Annie Hatch said. “Also scoring out of system. When we’re in system we’re really good until the balls are a little bit off, and being able to handle them will push us over the edge.”

Hatch also echoed what her coach said about staying balanced, as well as making sure herself and her teammates stay together as a squad.

Despite the play of Lynch, the Mountaineers are eighth in the conference in both blocks and opponent blocks. The Cyclones blocking game has steadily improved throughout the season, and they should look to exploit that mismatch with Herrera, who is leading the Big 12 in blocks-per-set and is second in overall blocks.

Whether or not starting libero Marija Popovic will be back will also be a huge factor this weekend. Popovic is atop the conference in digs-per set and was out for both matches against Texas due to Big 12 health and safety protocols. If she can’t play, look for freshmen Allie Petry and Brooke Stonestreet to once again serve much bigger roles.

The first match starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum, with the second coming at the same time and place on Sunday.