Iowa State looks to improve its offense as it gets ready to take on UNI

Junior Jess Schaben taps the ball over the net Aug. 26. The Cyclones went on to sweep Omaha in thee consecutive sets. 

Garrett Kroeger

The Iowa State volleyball team is on the verge of setting the program record for the best start to a season.

Three non-conference games remain on the Cyclones schedule and the team is 7-0. That means, if they win, the Cardinal and Gold would be 10-0 heading into Big 12, surpassing the previous record of nine wins to start a season.

“This will be (Iowa State’s) most challenging week, no question,” said coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. “It will be an interesting week for us. We are looking forward to it.”

The first team Iowa State will play during the three game stretch is the Northern Iowa Panthers on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. at Hilton Coliseum.

The Panthers do not make a lot of mistakes and they make their opponents earn a win over them, according to Johnson-Lynch. 

While UNI will pose a threat to Iowa State’s early season win streak, the Panthers are a very similar team to last year in the Cyclones’ eyes.

“They are just a really good ball handling team,” Johnson-Lynch said. “They play very good defense and pass very well. They traditionally have a style of play that’s very defensive-minded, really good ball control.”

“I think it is still a very similar team we have faced in the past. But they have had success, probably more success than maybe they thought they would this year early on.”

Johnson-Lynch believes the offense will get where it needs to be, but the Cyclones will need it to improve when they take on the Panthers.

“Kind of everything,” Johnson-Lynch said on what Iowa State’s offense needs to improve upon. “Again, a part of it is that 6-2. With two setters coming in and out, it is sometimes hard to get into that rhythm and that flow.

“We are just not getting kills in transition. So when the ball goes across the net, we tend not to get very good sets and hits out of it.”

Although Iowa State’s offense has not been clicking, it has benefited from its veteran presence.

The players who have been leading the Cyclones attack this season have been Samara West, Alexis Conaway, Grace Lazard and Jess Schaben. All four of those players are either a junior or a senior.

“We have a lot of veterans on the court,” Johnson-Lynch said on Iowa State’s early season success. “ That is a big part of it. We had to come back and several of those sets we were down pretty big.

“I think because we are experienced, that has put us in position to do that. It is pretty hard to do that if you have a lot of freshman who freak out in those situations. We have been able to stay pretty composed, no matter who we were playing.”

This past weekend at the Iowa Invitational, Iowa State experienced some bumps against in-state rival Iowa.

Iowa State’s offense experiencing some troubles, but the Cyclones’ defense was able to carry them. That match against Iowa showed that Iowa State is fully capable of battling back against a good team like UNI even if it starts in a hole.

“Anytime we play good teams and they do good things against us, they make good adjustments, they cause a lot of problems for us, we learn about ourselves,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We learned a lot this weekend. We continue to learn that we have a lot of grit and ability to come back.”