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Iowa State volleyball defeats South Dakota 3-0 in season opener

Morgan+Brandt+passes+the+ball+for+Iowa+State+in+their+season+opener+against+South+Dakota+at+Hilton+Coliseum+on+Aug.+25%2C+2023.
Tyler Coe
Morgan Brandt passes the ball for Iowa State in their season opener against South Dakota at Hilton Coliseum on Aug. 25, 2023.

The Iowa State volleyball team started its season with a 3-0 win over South Dakota and showed a lot of talent from its young roster Friday night.

The Cyclones secured a comfortable victory, but it was not without facing early adversity. All-Big 12 second team from 2022 and 2023 preseason All-Big 12 player Maya Duckworth was not in the lineup for the season opener.

“We are uncertain about [Duckworth’s] status, she’s been battling some injuries… We’ll just have to see, it’s kind of a week-to-week thing,” head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said.

Despite missing Duckworth, the Cyclones got off to a hot start in the first set. Senior Annie Hatch led the way in the set recording six kills, followed by true freshman Nayeli Gonzalez who had five kills.

The Cyclones took the first set 25-16, but the margin could’ve been wider if it were not for some unforced errors.

“We did miss a lot of serves tonight, that’s definitely something we’ll continue to talk about,” Hatch said.

Five out of 11 total serving errors came in the first set which allowed South Dakota to hang around for a while, but Iowa State eventually pulled away to end the set.

The second set looked very similar to the first. Iowa State gained control early and slammed the door shut to keep South Dakota at arm’s length every time it looked like the team was gaining some momentum. Four more serving errors let South Dakota keep the set tight but the Cyclones took the set 25-20.

In the third set, Iowa State got out to a commanding 18-9 lead and held off a late flurry of attacks from South Dakota to win the final set 25-17.

Senior leader Hatch showed up big in the opener with 14 kills and a hitting percentage of .379. Another impressive performance came from Gonzalez. She recorded 11 kills and had a hitting percentage of .385 in her collegiate debut.

This impressive debut was no shock to Johnson-Lynch.

“She graduated early so she’s been here all spring, and she had a good spring, but she’s had a great preseason,” Johnson-Lynch said. “She gave herself a really good shot to get comfortable here and it’s worked. She has a lot of confidence and she is a great player, she was already very well-trained when she got here.”

Hatch also gave credit to Gonzalez for stepping up in the absence of Duckworth.

“[Duckworth’s] role is so hard to fill because she’s such a huge presence and we definitely miss her on the court, but I think Nayeli has really stepped up in the gym and then again today,” Hatch said.

Gonzalez is not the only young player making an early-season impact for the Cyclones.

Seven out of the 10 players that made appearances were either freshmen or sophomores, and coach Johnson-Lynch was impressed with how they performed in the season opener.

“I’m sure there were a lot of nerves but I think they looked pretty comfortable and confident,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Sometimes you just don’t know what to expect when it’s someone’s first collegiate match and I thought that they really did a nice job.”

Iowa State will have to rely heavily on these young players and hope for the speedy recovery of Duckworth if the team wants a repeat of last year’s historic season.

Iowa State will look for its second win of the season in the finale of the Cardinal and Gold challenge against DePaul at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

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