Iowa State searches for offensive solutions before facing Kansas State

Senior Monique Harris spiking the ball into Sooner territory. 

Trevor Holbrook

After last week’s lackluster performance against Baylor at home, the Cyclone volleyball squad has now been defeated by the Bears inside Hilton Coliseum for two straight years.

“I think it’s huge practice-wise just to kind of [forget about Baylor] and just [keep] working hard and sticking together in a time like this,” senior setter Monique Harris said after the Baylor match.

Similar to this year, Baylor held Iowa State to a low-hitting percentage last year, including a fourth and fifth set that saw -.024 and -.118 hitting percentages from the Cyclones.

Last season’s home loss wouldn’t deter Iowa State, but it would light a fire under the Cyclones. Iowa State bounced back, winning eight of its final nine Big 12 matches.

Could another loss to Baylor ignite a Big 12 run for the Cyclones? No. 23 Iowa State will get its first crack at sparking a similar run on Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. against Kansas State at home.

One stat that sticks out for the Wildcats is their serving success. In conference play, Kansas State is second in the Big 12 with 23 service aces, averaging 1.05 aces per set.

“I do think [Kansas State’s] serve causes problems,” Iowa State coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. “But fortunately, they are a tough serving team, but I think we are a good passing team.”

The Wildcats hold a 9-9 record, but they’re a dangerous team despite an average record.

Kansas State has faced a fairly large sample size of quality opponents. Kansas State is 2-3 in conference with two wins over Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

The Wildcats were swept by No. 5 Texas, Kansas State had then-ranked No. 12 Kansas on the ropes, similar to Iowa State’s match against the Jayhawks, but Kansas edged out the Wildcats in five sets.

In non-conference play, Kansas State was swept by two top-10 teams: Wisconsin and Nebraska.

In its final non-conference game, Kansas State downed the Northern Iowa Panthers in five sets on a neutral-court site; on the flip side, Iowa State received its first loss of the season from the Panthers.

Currently, Kansas State is 0-4 when facing a ranked opponent. If the Wildcats want to change that when they come to Ames, they will need to rely on redshirt junior hitter Kylee Zumach.

As a freshman, Zumach played in every set for the Wildcats, finishing the season with 412 kills and All-American Honorable Mention honors from the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

Zumach looked to build off her strong freshman campaign in her sophomore season. A season ending injury rejected Zumach the opportunity to play in her second season and forced her to redshirt.

She had a solid redshirt-sophomore season, but it appears the 6-foot-4 hitter is back to her dominant ways in her redshirt junior season.

Zumach has compiled 220 kills, averaging 3.06 kills per set. For comparison, Iowa State’s top hitter, junior hitter Jess Schaben, has hit at a rate of 3.00 kills per set.

She is also a dominant server, entering Wednesday’s match with the second-most service aces in Big 12 games with six.

This season, Iowa State has had the luxury of a stout defense, currently ranking No. 9 in the nation for blocks per set.

Regardless of whether Iowa State’s defense can win the matchup with Zumach or not, the offense will need to perform better than it did against Baylor.

With a week between the Baylor and Kansas State matches, Iowa State should’ve had a sufficient amount of time to work out some of its issues on offense.

“[The] end of last week and even today we’ve put a lot of focus on offensive reps,” senior blocker Alexis Conaway said. “[We are] just kind of varying things.”