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Iowa State volleyball excited for NCAA Tournament opportunity

The+Cyclones+huddle+before+the+volleyball+game+begins+at+the+Iowa+State+vs.+Kansas+volleyball+game%2C+Hilton+Coliseum%2C+Nov.+10%2C+2023.+%0A
Maeley Rosengren
The Cyclones huddle before the volleyball game begins at the Iowa State vs. Kansas volleyball game, Hilton Coliseum, Nov. 10, 2023.

With a ticket to the dance in hand, Iowa State will start the road to the National Championship as a seven seed in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament. The Cyclones went 20-9 on the season and 11-7 in the Big 12, a conference that had seven teams make the show.

“It’s always thrilling,” head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. “You never take it for granted. Even though we felt comfortably in, it’s still nerve-wracking waiting but so exciting at the same time.”

A trip out west to Eugene, Oregon, is where the road begins against Big West champion Hawaii. The Rainbow Wahine finished the season 23-8 overall and went 14-4 in the Big West.

“To go somewhere new is fun,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We used to go to Minnesota or Wisconsin. It was kind of the same old thing. Last year we went to Florida. This year we go to Oregon, and most of us have never been there, so I think they’re super excited to go on a new adventure.”

Like the Cyclones, Hawaii lost to UCSB, another team that made the tournament. The only other common opponent the two faced was TCU, a team that lost to Iowa State twice but beat Hawaii.

“They’re probably a lot like us,” Johnson-Lynch said. “They have a really nice middle that scored a lot of points for them. She actually might lead them in kills-per-set, which is unusual, so if they can do that, that means passing and defending very well because they can get the middle the ball.”

Both teams are riding high into the tournament. Iowa State concluded the season with a three-match winning streak to boost its ranking to solidify a spot in the bracket.

“Those last three matches put us in a really good spot, so had we not done those things, we might not be playing. I’m really proud of how the team played,” Johnson-Lynch said.

Hawaii is currently riding a six-match win streak. The last two wins for the Rainbow Wahine were to win the Big West Tournament in sweeps over Cal Poly and Long Beach State.

Seniors Alexis Engelbrecht and Annie Hatch know it will be challenging but embrace it. The excitement is high as they look to finish their college careers on a high note.

“As seniors, we tried a lot to establish a culture of hard work and hustle and pushing each other. That really helps the younger girls too,” Hatch said.

“I’m so excited,” Engelbrecht said. “I feel more confident in the team than I have ever before. I think this is the team that can really make it far and get to the Sweet 16. We can get to the Elite Eight. I’m just so pumped.”

The winner will await No. 2 Oregon or Southeastern Louisiana. Hawaii and Oregon did play in the regular season, with Oregon getting the upper hand in a sweep.

The road to the Final Four begins at 6 p.m. Thursday when the Cyclones take on Hawaii. The winner will play at 9 p.m. Friday against Oregon or Southeastern Louisiana.

All of the round one and round two matchups can be viewed on ESPN+.

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    Paula Twelmeyer | Nov 30, 2023 at 11:30 am

    Great article, Brett. Proud of you!

    Reply