Iowa State volleyball pulls off sweep in opening spring tournament


Jacob Rice

Maya Duckworth leaps for a kill during an exhibition game versus Missouri on Aug. 19.

Payne Blazevich, Sports Reporter

AMES — It was a productive start to Iowa State’s spring volleyball schedule, as the Cyclones pulled off a sweep in the Iowa State Spring Tournament Saturday. 

The tournament featured three-set battles against Drake, Northern Iowa and Iowa. The Cyclones knocked off each team en route to a tournament victory, winning all but one set. 

Iowa State was purposeful on improving with each point, but poise and some key plays from younger players helped the Cyclones to a hot start in spring.

“It was great to come away with some victories today, but I’m really proud of us just competing every single point and working to get better if we needed to make adjustments,” Iowa State assistant coach Marc Neef said. 

The series of games marked the first time the Cyclones saw the court at Hilton Coliseum since the 2022 season. Iowa State’s fall season featured upset wins over No. 13 Baylor and No. 1 Texas, as well as a win over Florida Gulf Coast to reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa State featured a young team, but it included veterans like star hitter Eleanor Holthaus, along with seniors Annie Hatch and Solei Thomas. With Holthaus and a group of other seniors gone, Iowa State worked to integrate its young talent into the lineup. 

“We’ve got a lot of young girls, so it’s just having that confidence when you’re out there,” Hatch, who will be returning for her fifth season, said. “I think we had some tight sets and I think everybody was really calm and confident.” 

In their first appearance on the court, the Cyclones were in control of each match they played. Maya Duckworth, who emerged as a breakout freshman hitter last season, picked up where she left off. The Cyclones also had a strong presence at the net with sophomore Kelsey Perry and senior Jordan Hopp shutting down attacks. 

The lineup was in constant rotation throughout each match, with a new bunch of players coming in after every set. Duckworth was the primary scorer in Iowa State’s first group of players, while freshman Nayeli Gonzalez, who enrolled early for the spring season, led the other group in a strong showing.

“I love watching [Gonzalez] play, she has tons of energy all the time,” Neef said. “She was self-proclaimed a little bit nervous at the start and it’s her first college match, so getting those nerves out of the way, I thought she settled in really nice.” 

Iowa State started off the day with a sweep over Drake. The Bulldogs hung around in set one, but two dominant performances in the following sets put the first match out of Drake’s reach. 

The Cyclones continued their offensive rhythm against Northern Iowa, securing a 2-1 win over the Panthers. The second set was a more tightly contested matchup, reaching extra points, and the third set fell Northern Iowa’s way, but Iowa State was still able to come away with the win.

Iowa State secured the tournament victory in a tightly contested final match against Iowa. The Hawkeyes were up big in the first set, but Iowa State was able to battle back and win 25-22. 

From there, the Cyclones controlled the match the rest of the way, taking both sets to end the day with a 3-0 win over the Hawkeyes. 

“We’re always really excited to be back on the floor at Hilton. We got some good fans out too, which was fun,” Hatch said. “It’s always fun to see what the new team is gonna look like.”

Along with the Iowa State Spring Tournament, the Cyclones will also play a second series of matches in Iowa City April 22. In between, Iowa State has standalone matches against Creighton and Marquette.