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Three Big Takeaways: Iowa State takes down No. 18 Baylor in home thriller

Maeley Rosengren
Iowa State’s bench has fun during an intermission against Baylor at Hilton Coliseum on Sept. 30, 2023.

AMES — Iowa State volleyball entered Saturday’s match against Baylor riding a four-game winning streak, sweeping Ohio, Drake and West Virginia twice.

Despite starting 2-0 in the conference, Iowa State fell out of the top-25 rankings and was looking for a statement win to climb back in. That statement would come in a thrilling victory over Baylor, 3-2.

An even match throughout, the Cyclones emerged victorious in the final set. Here are the three big takeaways from Saturday’s action.

Nayeli Gonzalez leads the way

Freshman Nayeli Gonzalez has been a huge reason why Iowa State has won games throughout the season. Saturday proved no different as she took control of the match from the start.

Set four was when Gonzalez started to show that she was the deciding factor. Of Iowa State’s final five points in the fourth set, four were kills by Gonzalez. Senior Annie Hatch served up an ace to force a fifth set, as Iowa State won 25-22.

Gonzalez was the only Cyclone to finish with over 10 kills, totaling 24 across all five sets. Six of these kills came in the crucial fifth set, which propelled Iowa State past Baylor for a 15-8 victory to take the match.

Her .475 hitting percentage was better than any player on both teams. Gonzalez gave up six errors the entire match, an average of 1.2 per set. Limiting those errors and grabbing nearly five kills per set helped immensely in Iowa State’s victory.

Momentum swing seals the deal

Opening the match, Iowa State looked strong out of the gate with a 25-17 set-one win. Baylor was able to tie it up winning set two 25-19. At that point, Iowa State had one more total kill and two more total attack errors.

A shaky third set for Iowa State made Baylor look like it had taken the momentum. Baylor won set three 25-15 to take control of the match 2-1. The Cyclones committed four more attack errors in set three and had four less kills than Baylor.

The Bears’ attack percentage was getting better as the game progressed, while the Cyclones’ kept falling.

Baylor continued its run into the beginning of set four, grabbing two quick blocks and a 4-0 lead. The Cyclones did not go away and fought back to tie the game at 17, and took their first lead late in the set 19-18.

That point in the match shifted the momentum back to the Cyclones. The crowd was back into it as well. The energy was through the roof, and Iowa State hung on for a close 25-22 win to force a fifth set.

Entering set five, Iowa State rode the wave of momentum to a dominant 15-8 win that sealed the 3-2 win in thrilling fashion. From escaping from being down 2-1 after a 10-point loss in the third set to winning the next two sets to take the match, the win was electrifying for Iowa State’s dominant start to the season.

Iowa State looks to keep pushing

The Bears entered 6-5 but had played six ranked opponents up until their first match with the Cyclones.

Iowa State had 57 kills to Baylor’s 54, and the Bears committed 22 attack errors to the Cyclones’ 26. Baylor had three players finish with 10 or more kills, while Gonzalez was the only Cyclone with more than 10.

The Bears played the Cyclones tough all day, but in the end, it was the Cyclones grabbing the win.

Iowa State and Baylor will clash again at Hilton Coliseum at 2 p.m. Sunday. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and can also be streamed on ESPN +.

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    Russ Twelmeyer | Sep 30, 2023 at 6:21 pm

    Great job Brett Twelmeyer, who wrote this story. After reading it, he made you feel as if you was there watching the game. It was to the point & throwing in some stats gave you idea about of what had transprior though out the game. Great cover of this game.