Notebook: Volleyball relying on experience and leadership in 2021

Iowa State volleyball head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch speaks to reporters at media day on August 17. This is her 16th season at Iowa State.

Andrew Harrington

Iowa State volleyball finished the 2020 season with a sub .500 winning percentage, a first in head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch’s 16 year tenure. The Cyclone players and staff look to start a new streak in the 2021 season.

Relying on senior leadership

If the Cyclones are going to have a successful season, much of it will be thanks to the senior leadership of players such as Eleanor Holthaus, Candelaria Herrera, Brooke Andersen and fellow upperclassmen. Johnson-Lynch said that although the 2020 season was difficult with the pandemic, paired with the team’s first losing season since 2004, the team as a whole has come together because of it.

“The way they grew closer, matured and handled a lot of adversity,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Probably way more than the volleyball stuff that happened, those relationships grew a lot, they matured a lot and as a coaching staff as always we learned a lot. I think it was just a really great year for growth for us off the court as much as anything.”

In addition to the team as a whole, the senior class will use this experience in order to lead the next generation of Iowa State volleyball players.

“This senior group is mature, hard working, good people, good teammates, you know it makes my job very easy,” Johnson-Lynch said. “They are already athletic and talented, but they are really experienced.”

Senior Eleanor Holthaus is focusing on not only her individual play during the upcoming season, but coaching up the players around her.

“I just want to go all out,” Holthaus said. “I want to leave it with a bang. I want to leave it all out on the floor, I want to be a leader, I want to be a role model for the younger girls on the team, I want to help lead this team to success and victory. When I leave, hopefully I made an impact on the team and the program.”

Outside hitter Brooke Andersen had a very similar statement to that of Holthaus, as she wants to leave the program in a better place.

“I want to just make this place better than where I left it,” Andersen said. “Whether that be through my play or off the court with my teammates whatever it may be. I just want to kind of be that person that they can ask for help or advice or anything. If I can be that for them, I did what I want to do here.”

Improvement from hitters

Johnson-Lynch also discussed the team’s hitters, mentioning that despite last year’s players at the position will mostly remain the same, the Cyclones have made major strides at the position.

“It is so weird I keep saying, we return so many hitters, basically all of the returning hitters from last year, but yet we look like a way different team,” Johnson-Lynch said.

This was in reference to the turnover at the setter and libero positions, but she also mentioned that the team has some great options at hitter.

“It is still very new, even though we return a lot of those hitters, every year is different, new setters is going to feel different, so we are still tweaking some things and trying to figure some things out, but man we’ve got some great options,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We will have a few people that probably emerge as real terminators, I think we will have other players that are going to be really good at being kind of our glue-type players, which you need a couple of every year.”

After the Cardinal and Gold scrimmage, Johnson-Lynch said that outside hitter Annie Hatch’s performance impressed her. Hatch personally believes that is in part due to an increase in confidence and experience in her play.

“Just my confidence coming into this year as a junior with a lot of experience.” Hatch continued, “I think just maturing as a player, so coming into this season I really want to be that confident, go to kind of player.”

Throughout the upcoming season, the players will rely on veteran leadership and confidence to have the successful season that they are hoping for.