Takeaways: Balanced hitting, consistency key for Cyclones in their first weekend

Iowa State volleyball August 27 vs. Drake.

Andrew Harrington

Iowa State volleyball kicked off its 2021 season with the Cyclone Challenge over the weekend in Hilton Coliseum and came out the other side with a 2-0 record. The team came out of the weekend with a 3-1 win over Drake on Friday and a 3-0 sweep against Omaha on Saturday.

The team was much more satisfied with Saturday’s performance as the offensive numbers increased dramatically, took advantage of Omaha’s mistakes and took care of business at home.

Balanced hitting approach

The Cyclones have put an emphasis on getting a lot of players involved in the offensive attack to start the season. This is something that the coaches and players have welcomed and partially credited to setter Jaden Newsome for mixing up her passes.

Right side Eleanor Holthaus said that having this balance in the offense has allowed her to be put into and capitalize on one-on-one opportunities at the net.

The Cyclones vastly outclassed each of their opponents when it came to hitting percentage. Against Drake, the Cyclones finished with a .236 hitting percentage compared to .105 from the Bulldogs. While this was still below what the coaching staff expects from the team, the balance was still there.

Holthaus, along with fellow Cyclones Candelaria Herrera, Annie Hatch and Brooke Andersen, each finished between 12 and 14 kills during the season opener. Opposing defenses have a lot of players to worry about when they play against Iowa State, making it much harder for them to stop the attack.

By the time the match against Omaha came around, the balanced attack began to yield the expected results. The team hit at an outstanding .388 percentage, fitting the team’s expectations much better than the first match.

Setting the tone early

Iowa State won all of its sets in which they were the first team to eclipse the ten-point threshold. The only set the team lost at the Cyclone Challenge came against Drake, in which the Bulldogs were the first team to hit the ten-point mark.

Owning the beginning of a set was clearly important over the first two matches but could also matter over the remainder of the season. Getting the early advantage during these sets will give Iowa State momentum and confidence. 

Iowa State head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch commented on the importance of setting the tone, stating that controlling the set is controlling the match.

Upcoming road stretch

After starting the season with a pair of home games, Iowa State will now face a difficult month of road opponents.

The Cyclones will play their next nine matches outside of Ames, including three tournaments. To begin the stretch, Iowa State will head to the Penn State Classic to play in three matches, beginning with a September 3 matchup versus LSU at 10 a.m.

Johnson-Lynch acknowledged the difficulty of the upcoming schedule during her post-game press conference.

“We are going to have to be tough and be road warriors. I always liked playing out on the road. I think over the years we have kind of learned the attitude that you have to take into road matches,” Johnson-Lynch said. “This will be an incredibly tough stretch, but we need to keep seeing who we are and what we can work on and get ready for conference. It is going to be a really good test of where we are at.”

Since the coming month will be a challenge, the Cyclones will need to play their best to come out of it with a strong record.