Iowa State volleyball battles for first Big 12 win of the season over Oklahoma

Senior Monique Harris sets the ball to senior Alexis Conaway Aug. 26. The Cyclones went on to sweep Omaha in thee consecutive sets. 

Garrett Kroeger

It was not the Iowa State volleyball team’s greatest performance, but a win is a win.

On Saturday, the No. 18 Cyclones opened Big 12 play against the Oklahoma Sooners.

Heading into the match, Oklahoma (3-11) had only won three games. And even though Iowa State (10-1) won in four sets (29-31, 25-15, 25-23 and 25-22), it was pushed to the limits by the Sooners.

“We knew Oklahoma was a good team,” said coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. “Their record may not reflect how dangerous they are. Their left side has a huge arm. We really felt this was going to be a tough match and it was.”

The Cyclones struggled in different aspects of their game.

Johnson-Lynch did not like how her team served Saturday night. Overall, Iowa State had eight service errors. She also thought, Iowa State did not pass that well either. It was not able to get Oklahoma out of system like it usually does according to Johnson-Lynch.

What made it hard for the Cyclones to put away the Sooners was Oklahoma’s defense.

“Defensively, (Oklahoma) digs the ball so many times,” Johnson-Lynch said. “The ball was just going back and forth across the net, five, six, seven, one rally was really long. So that, if you are not used to it, can get you frustrated. You get tired of driving, approaching, and swinging hard.”

The Sooners actually out dug the Cyclones, 80-69. It is rare to see the Cardinal and Gold get out dug according to Johnson-Lynch.

Johnson-Lynch went onto saying that Oklahoma’s outside hitters also gave Iowa State some troubles. The Cyclones had to adjust to them throughout the match.

Despite the struggles, Iowa State got some big time performances from its key players. Samara West recorded 18 kills while Jess Schaben tallied 17 kills. But the Cyclone that continues to stay hot is freshman Avery Rhodes.

Last weekend against then-No. 8 Creighton and Wichita State, Rhodes emerged as a strong middle blocker for Iowa State. She followed up her strong Wichita State Invitational, with a five kill and seven block performance against Oklahoma.

“(Avery) has been doing amazing,” West said. “She is a great presences on the court. She will definitely help us out a lot.”

The Cyclones really did not set up Rhodes for kills against the Sooners, which is something Johnson-Lynch wants to change because she is a player that once you get her involved in the offense more, her blocking improves.

While it was not Iowa State’s best performance, Johnson-Lynch was still pleased with her team’s play. The transition offense looked improved in her eyes, which has been the Cyclones’ weakness thus far into the season. However, Iowa State still is not fully clicking on offense according to Johnson-Lynch.

The Cyclones knew the Sooners were going to give them fits. Oklahoma makes it tough for opponents to score a point. But Iowa State battled it out, worked for the points and found a way to win. And the Cyclones were completely okay with that.

“I think a win is a win,” Schaben said. “We will take it whenever we get it. I think there are stuff we wish we could have done better. But a win is a win. We are okay with that.”