A balanced attack leads Iowa State past Princeton

Jess Schaben, outside hitter, bumps the ball during the Cyclone versus Kansas State game on Oct. 11 at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones won 3-0.

Trevor Holbrook

Every direction Iowa State’s senior setter Monique Harris set in, she had offensive weapons on the court.

Iowa State relied on a balanced attack to sweep the Princeton Tigers on Friday.

“We got all our hitters going tonight, particularly our middles,” said Iowa State coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. “I think it was a good first round for us.”

Headlining the diverse offense attack for the Cyclones was junior hitter Jess Schaben.

It should come as no surprise that Schaben had a strong performance in Iowa State’s opening NCAA Tournament match. Not only has the junior had a solid regular season, but Schaben has found success in past postseason play.

In Schaben’s freshman season at the NCAA Tournament, the 6-foot-2 hitter totaled 27 kills in two matches. Schaben followed that up with nine kills in Iowa State’s lone NCAA Tournament match last season.

Schaben’s dominant postseason performances were a preview for Friday night. Schaben chipped in 14 kills for the Cyclones, while maintaining a .297 hitting percentage.

The Defiance, Iowa native was an important offensive presence for Iowa State, but Schaben also took care of business on defense.

Schaben added three blocks and 11 digs.

Alongside Schaben was another junior: Grace Lazard. Lazard contributed a well-rounded performance for the cardinal and gold.

“I thought this was one of Grace’s best performances of the season,” Johnson-Lynch said. “That’s exactly what you want going into this part of the season.”

The 6-foot-2 middle blocker received fewer opportunities than Schaben, but Lazard thrived when Harris set her up. Lazard tacked on 14 kills on .522 hitting percentage.

Lazard gave Princeton fits at the net, but the junior did damage behind the service line, too. Lazard smacked two service aces past the Tigers.

“[With a balanced attack] you never know who is going to get set, really, and I’m about terminating the ball,” Lazard said. “Every time I get the ball, I’m going to finish up.”

The offensive production didn’t stop there.

Redshirt senior Samara West and senior Alexis Conaway received their chances to shine in front of a packed crowd inside Hilton Coliseum.

The Cyclone senior tandem combined for 12 kills, and Conaway added nine digs.

Freshman middle blocker Avery Rhodes was next in line for Iowa State.

Rhodes wasn’t phased by the atmosphere of a NCAA Tournament match. The freshman was a key for providing energy for the Cyclones.

After beginning her freshman season on the bench, Rhodes has emerged as an asset for Iowa State. Rhodes proved to be an important piece again on Friday, finishing the match with seven kills and seven blocks.

With so much production from Schaben, Lazard, West, Conaway and Rhodes, Iowa State barely had any room for more contributions.

The player feeding her teammates for the offensive outburst, Monique Harris, even got in on the action.

Harris, a 5-foot-9 setter, lacks some size for the average setter, but what the senior lacks in size, she makes up for in savviness.

The Clinton, Iowa, native kept the Princeton defense on its toes, distributing the ball to all of Iowa State’s playmakers.

In situations where Princeton was honed in on one of the hitters or blockers, Harris would snap the ball to an unoccupied part of the court.

Harris only picked up two kills, but the crafty move by the senior was enough to keep the Tigers honest.

The Iowa State offense really hit its stride against Princeton, but it wasn’t because of an individual play. Every Cyclone starters showcased their multiple options on offense.

“It’s awesome for other teams to [have to] respect all of us in [the] front row,” Schaben said.