‘We’re fighting for our lives’: Cyclones battle it out for second Big 12 win


Daniel Jacobi II

Trio of Cyclones dive for dropping ball in 3-1 win over Kansas on Oct. 7.

Payne Blazevich, Sports Reporter

In a tightly contested match, Iowa State took down Kansas to earn its second Big 12 win. A strong presence up front and clean ball control helped the Cyclones secure their fifth home win of the season by a score of 3-1 Friday.

After a loss on the road against Kansas State, the Cyclones were looking to even out their conference record. However, Kansas posed just as much of a threat as the Wildcats.

Kansas entered the match ranked No. 4 in the Big 12 and Iowa State was ranked No. 7. In the back-and-forth series, both teams were jockeying for a spot in the upper echelon of the conference. 

“That felt almost like a very typical Big 12 match. It was a grind: close sets, critical points, super physical, long rallies. I think that’s what we need to come to expect,” head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said.

With road wins hard to come by, Iowa State was in need of a home victory. The 3-1 win over Kansas helps Iowa State find some footing in the Big 12, and could develop into some momentum as the season progresses. 

Consistent passing and serving helped Iowa State secure a comfortable first set. Ball control was a struggle against Kansas State, but Iowa State had tight command of its fundamentals at the start of the match. 

But as the match carried on, those solid fundamentals began to slip.

“I typically chart how that’s going and if it’s a negative and a negative and a negative, three or four points in a row, it just meant we’re not getting a pass where we can run much offense,” Johnson-Lynch said. 

The Cyclones dropped set two but won a tightly contested third and fourth set. The team secured multiple high-pressure points as the match drew to a close. 

“It’s really all about not getting nervous, playing hard. I think our coaches stress a lot, just keep taking shots, don’t play timid,” junior Alexis Engelbrecht said. 

Iowa State played loose throughout a back-and-forth rally in the final few points. A kill from Engelbrecht closed out the set 25-23, earning Iowa State the win. 

Engelbrecht was a difference-maker for the Cyclones in the match. She had 11 kills and five blocks, shutting down Kansas’ avenue of attack and finding kills at critical moments. 

“They have some really good hitters and they have a pretty good offense that stepped up a lot, and that’s always fun to play against because you’re just testing your blockers,” Engelbrecht said. 

“How good can we be with every point? How, just, focused in can we be and how long can we work together,” Engelbrecht said. 

The middle stepped up, earning 10 blocks compared to five from Kansas. Although a presence from the middle helped the Cyclones take control, Iowa State also found some success in its serving. 

The Cyclones had eight serving aces, compared to three from the Jayhawks. Serving was a weakness for Iowa State in its previous match, making it a focal point during practice. 

“In practice we’ve really been working on hitting those deep serves, and I just have been really hitting them lately and just tapping into the game,” said freshman Maya Duckworth. She earned five of Iowa State’s aces, which made a difference in the close match. 

With the win, Iowa State moves to a 2-2 record in conference play. The Cyclones have been competitive with the top teams in the conference, but have also fallen to teams ranked below them in the preseason, dropping road losses to TCU and Kansas State.

The Cyclones have been dominant at home but have struggled on the road. With how competitive the Big 12 has been, securing home matches is critical for Iowa State. 

“We’re fighting for our lives a little bit in the conference, and so I would honestly say every single match is key,” Johnson-Lynch said.