New additions make immediate impact in Cyclones’ victory

Marija Popovic celebrates with her teammates after scoring a point over Drake on August 27. 

Aaron Hickman

Iowa State came out on top 3-1 (25-20, 25-20, 23-25, 25-17) over the Drake Bulldogs Friday night to open its 2021 season. The new additions to the Cyclone’s starting lineup played a big part in the outcome.

Taking over at the starting setter spot, Missouri transfer Jaden Newsome tallied 53 assists while chipping in four kills and 13 digs.

For someone who hasn’t been with the team very long, Newsome made several key reads to either help set up her teammates or get a kill of her own.

“It felt good,” Newsome said. “We’ve done a good job with all new people working on tempo, hits and sets. We’ve done a good job communicating.”

Senior outside hitter Brooke Andersen had nothing but positive words for her new setter.

“We have such a great setter,” Andersen said. “She’s able to run the offense and keep the other team guessing. It’s important that all of us are effective and efficient in our spots. That allows us to help each other, and make sure they’re not honing in on one person.”

Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch has talked a lot about how important the setter-hitter connection will be for Iowa State this year, and she believes there is improvement yet to come.

On the defensive side of things, the Cyclones were able to hold the Bulldogs to a hitting percentage of only 10 percent. Pittsburgh transfer Marija Popovic, the new starting libero, was a big part of that number. Contributing 21 digs and making several key plays to hold off the Drake attack, Popovic talked about her emotions coming into tonight.

“Yesterday I was very nervous about everything because it’s the first time playing with this team, but today when everything started I didn’t feel nervous at all,” Popovic said. “I actually felt like, for the first time in a long time, I get to play at home. I felt like I’m playing with my friends again. It became really easy to play.”

Johnson-Lynch talked about what a great player Popovic is, and how her all-around abilities as a player and leader are important to the program.

“She adds a lot to our team and I’m really glad she’s here,” Johnson-Lynch said.

Another key part of the Iowa State victory was the Cyclone faithful being back in Hilton Coliseum. After really missing them last year, the fans energized the Iowa State players at several key moments throughout the match.

As someone who has played at Hilton a lot throughout her career, Brooke Andersen was happy to see the sea of cardinal and gold once again.

“Hilton was rocking tonight,” Andersen said. “They really helped us keep the energy going. It made it fun to play out there.”

Johnson-Lynch spent the opening portion of her press conference talking about how great it was to see the fans again. “It was really good to be back in a full arena,” she said. “Such a fun night and a great crowd. We’ve been waiting a long time to feel that again.”

Moving forward, the Cyclones will be looking to keep up their defensive dominance while continuing to mesh together offensively. They will be back in action at 4 p.m. Saturday against the Omaha Mavericks with another opportunity to improve.