‘Peaking again’: Iowa State heads to NCAA Tournament with momentum


Tyler Coe

Senior Solei Thomas and Iowa State prepare for a match against Northern Iowa on Sept. 13.

AMES—Iowa State volleyball will head to Gainesville, Florida, to appear in the 15th NCAA Tournament under head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch Friday.

The No. 6 seeded Cyclones take on Florida Gulf Coast University, the automatic qualifier out of the ASUN conference, fresh off a win on senior night against Oklahoma. The win ended a two-match losing streak for Iowa State and a stretch in which the Cyclones were 1-4.

It allowed Iowa State to return to the win column before the postseason. But head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said the win was a sign the team is returning to the level of play that allowed it to reach the top 25 this season.

“It looked like we were starting to peak again,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We had a rough stretch on the road, and I felt like we finished at a really high level.”

Iowa State’s final stretch of the season included losses on the road to No. 1 Texas, No. 15 Baylor and Kansas. The Cyclones also suffered a loss to Kansas State at home that ended an eight-match winning streak.

During the win streak, Iowa State became the only team in NCAA volleyball to take down the No. 1 overall seed Texas Longhorns.

“I’m excited to go into the tournament with that level of play,” Johnson-Lynch said.

After the regular season ended, Iowa State received Big 12 conference honors. Eleanor Holthaus, who played her final match at Hilton Coliseum on Nov. 23, was named to the All-Big 12 team for the fourth time in her career.

Holthaus, who ranks fifth all-time in kills for Iowa State, is the only Cyclone in history to claim All-Big 12 honors in four seasons.

Her teammate and true freshman Maya Duckworth appeared on the All-Big-12 second team. Duckworth will compete in her first NCAA tournament Friday as one of four unanimous selections for the Big 12 All-Rookie team. Duckworth is second behind only Holthaus for Iowa State with 293 kills this season.

For Duckworth, gaining valuable experience is what she looks forward to most in her first NCAA tournament.

Iowa State libero Brooke Stonestreet finished her regular season on top of the league with 4.74 digs per set. Stonestreet has earned multiple Big 12 Libero of the Week honors and has been key in Iowa State’s journey toward the tournament.

FGCU finished its regular season 26-6 and 13-3 in league play. The Eagles enter the matchup with Iowa State on a 10-match win streak. FGCU finished second in the ASUN conference but won the league tournament for the second consecutive year.

Last season, FCCU forced Texas Tech to exit the tournament early with a first-round win over the Big 12 opponent.

“We were not looking very optimistic for making the tournament,” Johnson-Lynch said. “To see where we’ve come from in September, I’m thankful, and I’ll enjoy every minute of it.”

Iowa State and FGCU will start play at 3:30 p.m. from the University of Florida’s facilities in Gainesville. The winner will advance to play the winner of the No. 3 seeded host school and Florida A&M.