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Iowa State sweeps DePaul in gritty finish and remains undefeated to start the season

Nayeli+Gonzalez+communicates+with+her+teammates+against+DePaul+at+Hilton+Coliseum+on+Aug.+27%2C+2023.
Tyler Coe
Nayeli Gonzalez communicates with her teammates against DePaul at Hilton Coliseum on Aug. 27, 2023.

The Iowa State volleyball team, despite late match struggles, capped off its home opening weekend with another sweep against DePaul on Sunday to start the season 2-0.

In their final match of the Cardinal and Gold Challenge, the Cyclones dominated in the first set, ultimately pulling away 25-8. The team totaled 10 kills on 20 total attacks and seemed to have everyone in the right spot early on to keep the Blue Demons in check.

Freshman Nayeli Gonzalez continued her hot start from her debut against South Dakota early on against DePaul. She ended the first set with three kills and was able to quickly adjust to the Blue Demons’ defensive looks to help her team capture the first set.

“I think what went well was when I used high hands,” Gonzalez said. “I feel like they caught on that I like to hit that 5/6 seam, so I feel like their blocking came in more and their libero was just sitting on it. So I think just going up high and doing that green light really worked well.”

Gonzalez led all players with 13.5 points and finished the match with 11 kills on 31 total attacks and nine digs.

While the Cyclones were able to pull off the sweep with a pair of wins in the second and third sets, the team was tested more as the match went on.

In the second set, DePaul started to find its footing against Iowa State and put up a good fight compared to its previous offensive output in the first set. A little over the halfway point of the set, the Cyclones held a narrow 15-13 lead before scoring eight unanswered and eventually taking the set.

Iowa State’s surge in the second half of the set was highlighted by three straight kills from redshirt freshman Lilly Wachholz. She also finished with 11 kills and a hitting percentage of .500.

Things only got harder for the Cyclones in the following set.

The Blue Demons put Iowa State against the ropes and made them earn every point while turning things up offensively as well. After having just 11 kills in the prior two sets, they amassed 15 kills and 27 digs in the third set.

Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said her team started playing into DePaul’s offense towards the end of the match and they needed to switch things up in order to get their eventual sweep.

“Where to swing and what’s open is important, and I think we were playing into their block a little bit,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Some of it’s strategy, and some of it is just be aggressive—be assertive and aggressive, and good things will happen. That’s something we really preach, and I thought they did a good job of that.”

The Cyclones took a commanding 24-20 lead, and after giving up three more points to the Blue Demons to make the final set even closer, Wachholz made the final kill to complete the sweep.

A key part of Iowa State’s success offensively was sophomore Morgan Brandt who amassed 32 assists. Whenever the team was in need of a big play, Brandt was there to set up her teammates to whom she gives a lot of credit for making her job easy.

“I’m very confident in my teammates,” Brandt said. “I know that whatever ball I put up, they know what to do with it. [I am] putting my trust in them and just knowing that I have to put up a hittable ball, [and] it doesn’t have to be perfect.”

The Iowa native earned a lot of praise from her coach not only for being one the best athletes on the team but also for being one of the most well-rounded.

“She is just such a great athlete, so she can get to a lot of balls,” Johnson-Lynch said. “She makes really good decisions, she’s a really nice defensive player and a really nicer server and she’s a really well-rounded setter that can do everything.”

The Cyclones start their season undefeated through the first two games for the first time since 2021 when they finished 16-12 and were an NCAA qualifier.

Johnson-Lynch plans to continue taking advantage of these pre-conference schedule games and hopes the team can learn something from each match moving forward.

“The preseason is just about gathering information,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Today was another chance, and as teams watch us they learn how to pick us apart and we learn from that. I thought that happened today, so it’s just really good going into the week to know what to work on for next week.”

Iowa State will travel to Phoenix, Arizona, later this week and participate in the GCU Tournament with its first match against Arizona at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

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