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Aggressive play pays off, Iowa State knocks off No. 14 Kansas

Maeley Rosengren
The Cyclones celebrate after they score a point against the Jayhawks at the Iowa State vs. Kansas volleyball game, Hilton Coliseum, Nov. 10, 2023.

An electric atmosphere at Hilton Coliseum greeted Iowa State after its pair of road wins against TCU. What was ahead was a test against No. 14 Kansas.

Ranked opponents have gotten the better of the Cyclones more times than not this season. Iowa State flipped the script, getting a much-needed win over No. 14 Kansas 3-2 (25-22, 24-26, 23-25, 25-23, 15-3).

The Cyclones stayed aggressive all night. Multiple times throughout the match Iowa State was down to Kansas, but had more attacks, kills and digs than the Jayhawks to fight back and finish the job.

“Usually the team that has the better hitting efficiency wins the match. If you can get a few people going, that’s going to help you. Sometimes it changes night to night and that’s okay,” head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said.

It was a two-sided affair in terms of the aggressive offense for Iowa State. The Cyclones tallied 24 more kills than the Jayhawks (78-54) but had 10 more attack errors (34-24). This was the most kills and errors the Cyclones have had this season.

“We were hitting the ball out so much so I told them ‘Attack the block and be aggressive with it’, and so we ended up being blocked a lot, but I was okay with that. I think we can do a little better job of that tomorrow, but when you’re aggressive you’re going to get blocked, and I would prefer that to hitting a ball out of bounds,” Johnson-Lynch said.

Once again it was Nayeli Gonzalez leading the way. The reigning Big 12 Rookie of the Week had another huge night to lead Iowa State to the win.

“Nayeli’s grown a lot already in her mindset. Freshmen usually walk in and they get shaken really easily. They get in their heads and that’s why they can’t be as great as they could skill-wise. Nayeli, she struggled a little bit mentally at the beginning of the season, and then, I don’t know, something clicked for her,” Alexis Engelbrecht said.

Gonzalez had 31 of Iowa State’s 78 kills and added 12 digs and two blocks. She is the first Cyclone since 2008 to record 30 or more kills in a match.

“It was incredible, It was one of the best performances I’ve seen from an outside in every facet of the game,” Johnson-Lynch said. “She just keeps learning and growing and bouncing back.”

Engelbrecht, who described the Gonzalez performance as ‘absurd,’ had a big night as well. The senior had 14 kills and a hit percentage of .423 in the match.

The duo has relied on each other a lot this season. Gonzalez called Engelbrecht her biggest role model on the team.

“I’ve learned to stay strong from her. Every time I get in my head I know I can go to her. She’s taught me how to be a great player and a great person in general on and off the court,” Gonzalez said.

Getting multiple hitters involved is something Johnson-Lynch wanted to do against Kansas. Iowa State had four players score more than ten kills with help by sophomore setter Morgan Brandt who had 61 assists.

“Morgan is amazing at getting the ball to us,” Gonzalez said. “It keeps the other team on their toes.”

“She has some of the best hustle in a player that I’ve ever seen,” Engelbrecht said. “Morgan’s amazing.”

Engelbrecht and Gonzalez are looking forward to the second match against Kansas and believe the Cyclones can win again.

“It’s just another test. How good can we be on the second day? How hard can we fight? Can we come back with that same energy? That’s what I’m most excited for,” Engelbrecht said.

The rematch between the Cyclones and the Jayhawks will be at 4 p.m. Saturday and can be streamed on ESPN+.

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  • R

    Russ Twelmeyer | Nov 11, 2023 at 9:00 am

    Once again another great article.

  • E

    Eddie | Nov 11, 2023 at 8:27 am

    We knew when she literally “knocked out” an opponent after a kill shot, Nayeli would have an outstanding college career !!

  • P

    Paula Twelmeyer | Nov 10, 2023 at 11:16 pm

    Terrific article about a very exciting match!