Cyclones finish Cardinal and Gold Challenge undefeated


Maeley Rosengren

Blockers Kelsey Perry and Mariah Mitchell celebrate at the net during a match against Wright State on Sept. 10.

Iowa State volleyball completed the Cardinal and Gold Challenge Saturday afternoon with a win over Wright State. 

The Cyclones, with more stellar blocking at the net and an offensive attack led by Eleanor Holthaus, finished the Cardinal and Gold Challenge undefeated. Iowa State, returning to the court after an emotionally charged win against Iowa Friday night, improved its record to 5-4 with its fourth consecutive win on Saturday.

“I have to just say huge props to Eleanor,” head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. “She really got us out of some jams and showed her leadership once again.”

Holthaus finished with a double-double, contributing 17 kills and 10 digs in the match.

The Cyclones won the first set 25-14. Wright State responded by winning the second 25-16. Holthaus earned her tenth dig and double-double in the fourth set as the Cyclones gained the 2-1 edge in the match. In the fourth set, the Cyclones ended the match on a 5-0 scoring run. Iowa State took the set 25-19 after tandem blocks by Kelsey Perry and Solei Thomas and Holthaus and Perry for match point. 

Kelsey Perry led Iowa State with four total blocks.

Wright State entered the match having played two matches at the Cardinal and Gold Challenge on Friday. The Raiders pushed both Iowa and Drake to the fifth set, falling 3-2 both times. 

“They were scrappy,” outside hitter Mariah Mitchell said. “Knowing that, we knew what we needed to give.”

Mitchell made seven kills against Wright State and was second on her team behind Holthaus. 

Playing in her fifth season of collegiate volleyball, Mitchell transferred to Iowa State for the 2021 season. She played her first three seasons of college volleyball at Western Illinois. Last year, Mitchell appeared in 30 sets and started only five matches. So far in 2022, Mitchell has played in 35 sets for Iowa State and is second on the team in kills and kills per set. 

“From where Mariah was a year ago to where she is today is pretty remarkable,” Johnson-Lynch said Friday evening. “She has become an elite right side blocker.” 

Mitchell ended Friday night’s match with a block in the fourth set against Iowa. On Saturday, Mitchell added 5 block assists to the box score, as the Cyclones won the blocking battle for the third consecutive match. 

“Preseason is a grind,” Holthaus said. “You play a lot of games in a short amount of time. We have our momentum going right now. We’re in a really good place and that’s really exciting to see.”

The Cyclones defeated Iowa late Friday night. Playing on the short rest, Johnson-Lynch shuffled the Iowa State lineup. Sophomore Allie Petry received the start at libero against Wright State and earned a team-high 13 digs. Libero Brooke Stonestreet did not play in Saturday’s match. 

Junior middle blocker Abby Greiman had played in just five sets prior to Saturday’s match. She played in three sets against the Raiders and added four kills on nine attempts. 

Senior Solei Thomas played four sets and posted a new season high in kills with six. Morgan Brandt received the start in the setter role for the third and fourth sets. She led Iowa State with 20 assists in the contest. 

“I haven’t brought someone off the bench that hasn’t contributed in a good way,” Johnson-Lynch said. “What we learned this week is that we have some really nice depth.”

The Cyclones will complete a four-game home stand when they face Northern Iowa in Hilton Coliseum on Tuesday night.