Volleyball season starts off with Cyclone Challenge


The Cyclones celebrate a successful kill from sophomore outside hitter Kenzie Mantz on March 26 in Iowa State’s win against Wayne State at Hilton Coliseum.

Aaron Hickman

The Iowa State volleyball season begins Friday as the Cyclones host the Cyclone Challenge to start a lengthy non-conference schedule.

The Cyclones will take on the Drake Bulldogs Friday evening and the Omaha Mavericks Saturday afternoon. Fresno State was also slated to participate but dropped out due to health and safety protocols.

The Cyclones will look to start the season strong, coming off of the first losing season in Iowa State head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch’s 16-year tenure. This will also kick off a streak of 11 straight non-conference games for the Cyclones, a significant change from the 2020 season that featured a conference-only schedule.

Iowa State and Drake have not faced each other since 2018, and they have not faced each other in regular-season play since 2009. The Cyclones are 6-0 against the Bulldogs under Johnson-Lynch.

Iowa State and Omaha have not faced each other since 2017, and the Cyclones are 3-0 against the Mavericks under Johnson-Lynch.

With the returns of middle-blocker Candelaria Herrera and outside hitter Brooke Andersen to the lineup, plus the addition of several transfers and freshmen, this will be a completely different Iowa State squad from the one that played only six games in the spring.

With seniors Eleanor Holthaus, Herrera, Avery Rhodes and Andersen surely locked into significant playing time, the starting setter and libero spots will be something to pay attention to this weekend.

Missouri transfer Jaden Newsome makes sense for the starting setter spot as a senior with plenty of experience. Pittsburgh transfer Marija Popovic, senior Taylor Baranski, and junior Kate Shannon will all vie for playing time at the defensive specialist/libero spot.

With a new setter, it can be difficult to hit the ground running right away, and it’s a position Johnson-Lynch mentioned she’ll be paying attention to how the Cyclones perform at that spot during the weekend.

“Play great defense, ball-handle, play super fast and really tough,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Hopefully we can look really organized and shut down some players offensively.”

Iowa State will face Drake at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Omaha at 4 p.m. Saturday. Both matches will take place at Hilton Coliseum.