Three Big Takeaways: No. 12 Florida eliminates Iowa State


Tyler Coe

Iowa State celebrates an upset win over No. 1 Texas Oct. 19.

Anthony Hanson, Sports Reporter

No. 6 seeded Iowa State volleyball challenged No. 3 seeded Florida in the second round of the NCAA tournament Saturday night.

Playing on its home court, No. 12 ranked Florida overcame a match-leading 13 kills from Iowa State senior Eleanor Holthaus to end Iowa State’s 2022 campaign. Holthaus posted 10 digs to complete a double-double in her final collegiate volleyball match as the Gators eliminated Iowa State.

Iowa State finished the year with a 20-12 overall record. It was the first 20-win season for Christy Johnson-Lynch and Iowa State since 2018 and the 11th in school history.

“We don’t get outdone very often, and they outdid us by quite a bit and had some really nice offensive nights from some players,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I just thought it was a really complete game from them.”

The Gator defense

Florida consistently stopped Iowa State’s hitter from finding the floor and gaining offensive momentum.

The Iowa State passers and setters set up its offense for 118 attacks. But the Florida defense limited the Cyclones to a .110 hitting percentage on Saturday night.

Key Iowa State attackers were limited in the match. Freshmen Maya Duckworth, Iowa State’s second-leading scorer this year, was successful on five attacks on 26 swings. Duckworth misfired for six errors in the second NCAA tournament of her career.

Iowa State junior Solei Thomas seemed to find momentum in the first set. She led Iowa State with six kills after the first frame. However, Florida limited Thomas for the rest of the match. She finished with seven kills on 22 attempts.

Florida finished the match, beating the defensive-minded Cyclones in digs. Iowa State, who led the Big 12 in total digs during the regular season, made 40 digs against Florida.

The SEC champion Gators made 64 digs as they advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament.

Florida steals the second

After Florida won a close first set 25-19, Iowa State looked to have an answer.

Iowa State made three costly service errors and allowed Florida to strike first in the match. But the second started with Iowa State leading 5-1 and Florida head coach Mary Wise needing to take a timeout.

Iowa State leaned on its veteran Holthaus. She made six kills in the second frame, and at the conclusion of the set, she led the match with nine kills.

Florida, however, was able to mount a comeback to steal the second set and the momentum of the match. Florida battled to secure the win in the second set 25-23.

Florida senior Marina Markova ended the second set with seven kills, including the final kill of the defining second frame.

In the third, Iowa State never regained the momentum. Florida finished the Cyclones by winning the third by 11 points.  

A more balanced Florida

Florida used contributions from players up and down its lineup to overtake Iowa State Saturday night.

Florida sophomore Merritt Beason posted 12 kills, and the senior Markova came off the bench to match her teammate with 12 of her own. Markova and Beason shared a team-high for the match.

Florida libero Alexis Stucky made her mark with 33 assists, and the dig-leader for the Gators Elli McKissock, led the match with 17 digs. Emily Canaan and Beason both added double-digit dig totals to the box score.

Overall, Florida performed a complete team win over the Cyclones. Iowa State had only Holthaus in double figures. 

“I think our season as a whole, as hard as this is tonight, was incredible,” Johnson-Lynch said. “If you look back at where we started and what our team looked like in August and September to what we had put together for the season and getting to this point, that’s a pretty incredible story right there.”