Iowa State volleyball utilizing experience for upcoming season

Sophomore outside hitter Jess Schaben waits for the serve during the volleyball game on Oct. 26 at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 3-1. 

Trevor Holbrook

If there’s one word that best describes Iowa State’s volleyball program for the last 10 years, it’s consistency.

The Cyclones are coming off an 11th-straight NCAA Volleyball Tournament appearance, all under current head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch.

If Iowa State’s trend of consistency is to continue, it will be with a slew of quality players returning.

“We do return a lot of players [of our] core from last year,” Johnson-Lynch said. “That’s always exciting, and you always feel a little ahead of the game when you start with players that have so much experience.”

Jess Schaben, a junior outside hitter, headlines the team. Schaben is coming off her best season, thus far.

Schaben received American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Honorable Mention All-American honors, along with a spot on the All-Big 12 First Team.

The Cyclones own the luxury of experience alongside Schaben.

Iowa State returns a group of hitters and blockers consisting of Samara West, Grace Lazard, Alexis Conaway and Genesis Miranda; all of them are juniors or seniors.

Senior Monique Harris is expected to be the top setter, while freshman Piper Mauck will also receive playing time.

Hali Hillegas has locked up the libero position. Hillegas switched to libero partway through last season, playing the position for the first time.

With an offseason of preparation under her belt, Hillegas is prepared to thrive even more this season.

A large part of Iowa State’s team remains, but the Cyclones did lose key players.

Morgan Kuhrt, Ciara Capezio and Suzanne Horner all graduated. Branen Berta, Anna Kiel and Abby Phillips transferred.

The Cyclones were picked to finish fourth in the Big 12 Conference Preseason volleyball poll.

Ahead of Iowa State were powerhouses Texas and Kansas. Baylor claimed the third spot, receiving one more point than Iowa State.

“I think most people will assume Texas and KU (Kansas) will be the top two teams, and we’ve got to do everything we can to figure out a way to challenge that,” said Johnson-Lynch.