Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones persevere to beat No. 1 Texas


Brielle Tuttle

Alexis Engelbrecht and Solei Thomas celebrate a point in upset win over No. 1 Texas.

Anthony Hanson, Sports Reporter

Iowa State volleyball extended its four-game winning streak Wednesday night with a statement win over the nation’s No. 1 team.

Iowa State ended a 10-match winning streak in head-to-head matchups with Texas and handed the Longhorns their first loss of the 2022 season.

“I thought they showed, once again, so much perseverance,” head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said.

The Cyclones avoided four Texas set-points in the second frame and forced the Longhorns to extra points twice. Iowa State completed the victory in the fifth frame after a service error by Texas’ Jenna Ewert.

No fear against No. 1

Texas entered the match as the only remaining undefeated team in NCAA volleyball. The Longhorns had won 14 consecutive matches in the 2022 season and prior to Wednesday night, had only been forced to a fifth set once.

The Longhorns were squarely on top of the Big 12 conference and unanimously voted the nation’s best team in the country in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll. 

But, led by a strong group of leaders, the unranked Cyclones were not intimidated by the nation’s top squad, Johnson-Lynch said.

“This team just keeps fighting,” Johnson-Lynch said. “They just keep hanging in there and fighting, and we never go away. It’s an identity they’ve developed themselves.”

Wednesday night’s win was the second top-25 win of the season for Iowa State volleyball. The Cyclones took down No. 13 Baylor on Sept. 28 earlier this year in four sets. That win was the first over a ranked opponent since 2018.

Now, the Cyclones have added two top-25 wins in less than a month.   

“We trusted each other as teammates that we can battle through any situation,” Iowa State senior Annie Hatch said. “We just came in with that attitude.”

Hatch earned herself a new season high with her 14 kills in the match. 

On Wednesday night, Iowa State earned its first win over Texas since 2016.

‘Complete team performance’

Three Iowa State hitters tied for the lead in the kills category in Wednesday night’s win.

Back-to-back Big 12 rookie of the week and Texas native Maya Duckworth made 14 kills on 39 attempts, while seniors Eleanor Holthaus and Hatch matched with 14 of their own.

Cyclone scoring came from all over the court as sophomore Solei Thomas contributed 11 kills of her own.

“We didn’t have one or two people try to carry us tonight,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We had a lot of players, just a complete team performance.”

Cyclone libero Brooke Stonestreet provided a key defensive contribution as she finished with a match-leading 25 digs. In Iowa State’s previous two matches, Stonestreet posted 50 digs. Stonestreet is in her first season as the starting libero of the Cyclone squad. 

In Iowa State’s most recent home match against West Virginia, Stonestreet recorded a career-high 32 digs. 

Texas entered Wednesday’s match with the nation’s best hitting percentage, but Stonestreet was able to make key passes in the fifth set to limit the Texas attack. 

“Brooke has grown and improved so much the last three or four weeks,” Johnson-Lynch said. “She made some pretty phenomenal plays.”

Stonestreet also added a pair of aces from the service line in the Cyclone win. 

Comeback kids

Iowa State faced set-point four times in the second set and was able to stay alive and earn the win. Iowa State was down 24-20 but won the second 27-25. 

Wednesday night’s key set again proved the Cyclones’ ability to mount a comeback in high-pressure situations. 

“It helps us with experience,” Stonestreet said. “We’ve had a lot of long games, and it has prepared us for those long games against really good teams.”

Iowa State’s win against West Virginia on Oct. 12 was the team’s fourth reverse sweep of the season. Iowa State has completed comebacks by winning three straight sets against West Virginia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Troy. 

Wednesday night, the comeback effort in the second set was able to give the Cyclones momentum to outlast the nation’s best team.