Three Big Takeaways: Volleyball drops a pair at Tiger Challenge


DJ Jacobi

The Iowa State volleyball team comes together on the court after scoring a point against Kansas State on Nov 13, 2021.

It was a rough start to the Tiger Challenge for Iowa State, as it dropped matches to both No. 21 ranked Penn State and LSU. The Cyclones now hold a 1-4 record despite their string of competitive matches.

Iowa State fought Penn State close, losing its first two sets by three points before getting shut down by LSU. With Troy on deck, Iowa State will aim to leave Baton Rouge with at least one win.

Right on the edge

In its first match of the Tiger Challenge, Iowa State fell to Penn State, 1-3. The Cyclones kept each set close, scoring 22 points in their first two dropped sets before losing the fourth set 25-15.

Iowa State looked competitive, with senior Mariah Mitchell having another standout match with 13 kills, followed by senior Eleanor Holthaus and junior Jordan Hopp with 12. Penn State achieved a better hitting percentage in the sets it won, but overcame the Cyclones in the blocking battle with nine blocks compared to Iowa State’s three.

In their second match of the day, the Cyclones ran out of gas against LSU, the host school. Iowa State struggled to find much of a rhythm against the Tigers, as they dropped the match 3-0.

Alexis Engelbrecht’s 10 kills led Iowa State in its match against LSU, with no other Cyclone reaching double digits. Hopp was the second leading scorer with 5 kills.

Despite a difficult second match, Iowa State still had moments of excellence. The defense was much improved from the Rumble in the Rockies event a week prior, as Iowa State remained close in both kills and digs against both teams.

Iowa State played hard-fought matches against tough teams this entire season. Although they lost both matches, the Cyclones were competitive against No. 17 Creighton and No. 21 Penn State. At its best, Iowa State is able to compete with some of the best teams on its schedule.

Ran out of gas

After a tight match against Penn State, Iowa State wasn’t able to match LSU’s energy or offensive strength. The host team carried momentum throughout the entire match as they shut down the Cyclones.

LSU was the first team to truly blow out Iowa State, as they have been competitive in all of their previous losses. Iowa State showed some fight in all three sets, but by the end of the match there was nothing left in the tank for the Cyclones.

Injuries limited the capability of Iowa State, but the usual collection of scores failed to make their presence known.

The Cyclones had a .046 hitting percentage against LSU, compared to a .231 hitting percentage against Penn State. They also had 23 errors in three sets, one more than the Penn State match which went a set longer.

While the defense performed well, losing the blocking battle by one and the dig battle by five, the offense was lethargic. Against Troy, Iowa State will need to establish some rhythm in order to recapture its offensive flow from a week prior.

A long road ahead

Iowa State is a young team and requires more time to develop. While the Cyclones have excelled in certain areas, both the offense and defense needs to improve if Iowa State wants to be competitive at a national level.

Fortunately for Iowa State, the season is young as well. There will be plenty of opportunities to make incremental improvements as the journey towards the postseason continues. Time is necessary to reintroduce injured players and improve upon the growth already demonstrated in the season so far.

The volleyball regular season is a grind and the Cyclones are only at the beginning. With more matches, practices and reps to come, Iowa State will have a chance to take steps in the right direction.