Three Big Takeaways: Iowa State pulls off upset win over No. 13 Baylor


Tyler Coe

The Iowa State bench storms the court after an upset win over No. 13 Baylor Sept. 28.

In front of a home crowd, Iowa State took down No. 13 Baylor to earn its first conference win of the season Wednesday night. The Cyclones played a complete performance, emphasized by a standout showing from senior Eleanor Holthaus. 

Iowa State took command early and controlled a majority of the match, earning a 3-1 victory over the Bears. After its first win over a ranked opponent this season, the volleyball squad will aim to maintain its level of success.

Upset win

With the energy provided by a rowdy Hilton environment, the Cyclones were able to continuously rally against their ranked opponent. They got on a roll early and held onto the momentum throughout the match. 

“I think practice this week, the biggest focus was just intensity, like playing hard,” redshirt junior Abby Greiman said. “Whoever we play in the Big 12 this season, we’re gonna have to go take the game from them; they’re not gonna give it to us.” 

In the first set, Iowa State got off to an early lead and never ceased control. The Cyclones maintained their lead and won the first set 25-22 with the help of Greiman, who earned 5 kills to start. 

Set two was a back-and-forth battle, but Iowa State surged ahead as Holthaus began to find her footing. Holthaus led a late scoring run to help the Cyclones secure the second set. As the team began to show that they could pull the upset, the environment grew more boisterous. 

“We kind of play off each other, and I think it really helps us play with a more intense attitude,” Holthaus said. 

Holthaus had a pair of kills that helped the Cyclones take the lead, energizing the crowd and swinging the momentum. Iowa State dropped the third set 20-25 but secured the fourth earning Iowa State the upset win. 

Eleanor’s Emergence

Throughout the season, Holthaus has been an x-factor, making clutch plays in Iowa State’s biggest moments. She delivered again, earning 20 kills in the upset win over Baylor. 

“She was a big reason we could kind of rally tonight,” head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said.

In the huddle and on the court, Holthaus was making an impact, bringing the crowd to its feet with her kills and motivating the team during timeouts. 

“In the huddle, she was talking to the team and saying some really good things, and I was getting fired up listening to her,” Johnson-Lynch said. 

Holthaus started off with three kills in set one but took command in the second set with six. During the set, Holthaus reached 1,300 career kills, leading Iowa State on a 5-0 scoring run to finish off a set win. 

Her performance only escalated as an upset win drew near, scoring 11 kills in the final two sets. She used a combination of heavy blows and precise touches to find open space. 

In big matches, Iowa State has been able to secure wins with Holthaus playing at her best. When Holthaus reaches another level, the Cyclones are able to compete with the best teams they face. 

“I’ve tried to look at it all the same, but I will say I think when it’s a bigger match and you have your home crowd with you, it definitely helps,” Holthaus said. 

First conference win

With the home victory, Iowa State bounces back from its loss at TCU and currently sits at 1-1 in conference play. While the Cyclones secured a win over a highly ranked opponent, there are plenty of challenges remaining on the conference slate. 

“We have a really, really deep conference, and I think every single night, we’re gonna have to play like [tonight],” Greiman said. 

Baylor was voted No. 2 in the conference in the preseason, followed by Iowa State who was voted third. 

The Cyclones demonstrated the capability to be a top team in the conference, but each Big 12 opponent will be its own test. Iowa State struggled against TCU who was voted No. 7 in the preseason. 

“We were just so disappointed in how we played, and even a little bit effort at TCU, and I think this gives us the confidence that we can play at a much higher level,” Johnson-Lynch said. 

Iowa State will take on Kansas State on the road Sunday and return to face Kansas at home Oct. 7. Both teams are at a similar level to Iowa State and will provide the Cyclones with two consecutive challenges. 

One thing that will play to Iowa State’s advantage is the ability to carry the momentum of a big win into their next matchup. The Cyclones had a complete performance and had the opportunity to see how high the team can reach. 

“That’s something we’re gonna have to take with us throughout the rest of the season,” Greiman said. “Obviously Baylor’s a great team, but everybody else in the Big 12 is just as good as they are.”