Iowa State avoids déjà vu, downing Kansas

Iowa State Women’s Volleyball team celebrates after earning a points against TCU on Saturday, October 21st. 

Trevor Holbrook

Iowa State’s athletics program saw huge successes from the football team, women’s cross-country team and men’s cross-country team on Saturday. 

On Saturday night, Matt Campbell, Martin Smith and Andrea Grove-McDonough passed the baton onto volleyball coach Christy Johnson-Lynch.

“[This is] just a great weekend for Cyclone athletics between cross-country, soccer, and football and now volleyball,” Johnson-Lynch said. “[It’s] been a pretty special weekend I think for Cyclone athletics.”

Similar to TCU’s football program’s success against Iowa State, Kansas has been a thorn in Johnson-Lynch’s teams’ sides in the past.

Prior to Saturday, the Jayhawks had won six-straight regular-season matches over the Cyclones.

The most recent Kansas victory over Iowa State was in Lawrence on Sept. 27. The first two sets of that match featured arguably the best performances from the Cyclones this season.

The first match and Saturday’s match nearly mirrored each other in the first three sets. Iowa State was able to turn the tide on Saturday.

In the next three sets, Iowa State still played well, but Kansas’ talent shined, allowing the Jayhawks to escape the match unscathed.

Saturday’s match had a similar feel to it. In sets one and two, junior hitter Jess Schaben and redshirt senior right-side hitter Samara West combined for 21 kills.

West was a difference-maker in Saturday’s match.

The first meeting against Kansas, West had 16 kills on .222 hitting percentage. On Saturday, West improved those numbers with 19 kills on a .471 hitting percentage.

The defense played strong along with the offense; Kansas was held to a .143 hitting percentage through the first two sets.

The 21 kills from the duo, along with Iowa State’s team-hitting percentage of .256 through the first two sets, handed the Cyclones a comfortable two-set lead.

Just like the first match, Kansas coach Ray Bechard made adjustments after the Jayhawks dug themselves into a two-set deficit.

Once again, Kansas caught fire and cruised to a victory in the third set. All of a sudden, Kansas had not only life, but also momentum.

In the first meeting between Kansas and Iowa State, Kansas pounced on the third-set win to catapult the Jayhawks for the rest of the match.

This time, Johnson-Lynch and the Cyclones turned the tables to tackle the Jayhawks. In a hard-fought final set, Iowa State eked out a two-point set win in the fourth set. 

How did Iowa State prevent the same slide that happened in Lawrence?

“Last time, when that happened [dropping the three sets at Kansas] we kind of freaked out and let them take over,” said senior setter Monique Harris. “I felt like we did a good job of staying focused and still having energy.”

As a setter, some of the performances from Harris rely on her hitters and blockers to convert sets into kills.

At times this season, the Cyclone offense has struggled to find a hot hitter, and when the hitter was found, a compliment was nowhere to be found. On Saturday, it was a different story.

“It takes a lot of pressure off [when multiple hitters are having success],” Harris said. “Just knowing that I can set anyone at any given time, and I don’t have to think about who’s on and who’s not.”

With the Big 12 schedule, each team plays each conference opponent twice. In the first half of conference play, Iowa State lost to Kansas, Texas and Baylor.

Kansas is the only team the Cyclones have had a rematch with. After Iowa State evened up the season series against Kansas, it built some confidence for the Cyclones against Texas and Baylor.

“[After beating Kansas] I think it gives us a lot of confidence that we can do anything we put our mind to,” West said.