Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones pick up fourth reverse sweep of the season


Marijke Mendeszoon

Cyclone volleyball players look up at the scoreboard as the pregame video is shown in Hilton Coliseum on Oct. 12.

In a tense five-set match, Iowa State overcame match point twice to take down West Virginia Wednesday night. The victory marks Iowa State’s sixth home win and keeps the Cyclones undefeated at home in conference play. 

Iowa State faced early difficulties with ball control but found a way to swing the momentum in order to secure the reverse sweep. Coming into the third set with a chip on their shoulder, the volleyball squad saved a much-needed conference win. 

Five-set match/Reverse sweep

Despite facing defeat multiple times, Iowa State overcame its 2-0 deficit to reverse sweep West Virginia. With match point looming, the Cyclones maintained their composure and denied the Mountaineers their first conference win. 

The match began tumultuously for Iowa State, as the Cyclones gave away an early 7-1 lead after a string of errors. Ball control errors plagued the team as they dropped a close first set 28-26.

“When you just get that big lead, you get a little lackadaisical,” said head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch.  

The Mountaineers ran with their early momentum to take full control of the match. Iowa State failed to find any sort of rhythm, and constant errors put the second set out of reach. 

In set three, the team came out with new-found energy. The Cyclones were firing on all cylinders as the team’s top scorers made their presence known. Freshman Maya Duckworth and senior Solei Thomas led the charge as Iowa State went on a 12-0 scoring run. 

“We just wanted to get out there and show what we can do, kind of respect them, and then I think we had that chip on our shoulder to just play our butts off,” Thomas said. “At that point, we had nothing to lose.”

Iowa State hurried to a 25-10 win in set three and held off West Virginia in set four. Going into the fifth set, the Cyclones swung the momentum in their other direction. 

The fifth set was a rock fight as each team traded points, never letting the other take too big of a lead. The match was decided in extra points as Iowa State fought off West Virginia to secure the win.

“We just were able to rely on each other and the pressure just kind of was lifted off knowing that even if I got blocked, somebody was behind me to pick it up,” Duckworth said.  

Duckworth and Thomas

When Iowa State was on its back foot, Duckworth and Thomas came out firing to lead the lengthy, scoring run in set three. The duo has improved as the season has progressed, and they have been consistently among Iowa State’s most dangerous weapons. 

“We’re in this [6-2 formation] because Solei has been playing so well,” Johnson-Lynch said.

While Duckworth has been a staple of the lineup since her debut, Thomas has accumulated more playing time throughout the season. 

Duckworth has been a star since her first collegiate match this season, while Thomas has fought her way into the lineup. Duckworth’s energy paired with Thomas’ attacking ability allows the Cyclones to be a threat from both sides of the floor.

The pair combined for a total of 25 kills and seven blocks despite West Virginia’s strong presence at the net. Duckworth and Thomas have most commonly found their success when the rest of the team struggles to overcome a challenging defensive front.

“We kind of sped our offense up a little bit but also just swinging high; the best you can do is swing high and get that touch. I think that’s what we changed a bit,” Thomas said. 

Passing and serving

While Iowa State came away with the victory, passing and serving could have cost the Cyclones the match. Ball control has been a problem all season, and it was another area of weakness against West Virginia.

“I want to say it wasn’t always pretty, but it was all because West Virginia made us not look pretty at times, where they were hitting the ball, the way they were hitting,” Johnson-Lynch said. 

A lack of ball control has often correlated with Iowa State struggling. Serving was Iowa State’s most prominent issue in its 3-0 loss against Kansas State, and poor passing gave Kansas the opportunity to steal a set win. 

Iowa State had 17 service errors in the match and 29 errors in total. Service errors nearly cost the Cyclones the match in set five, as each team traded a total of four service errors in a row late in the set. 

West Virginia forced Iowa State into uncomfortable positions, making the Cyclones beat themselves. As they adjusted, the Cyclones were able to mitigate some of their mistakes. 

“I thought we were really tough and really resilient there at the end, and this team’s continuing to show that,” Johnson-Lynch said.