Iowa State Volleyball: Schaben, Offense, Big 12

Iowa State outside hitter Jess Schaben celebrates a point on Nov. 26 in Hilton Coliseum. Led by the seniors, Iowa State swept Oklahoma in 3 sets.

Garrett Kroeger

This offseason, outside hitter Jess Schaben underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum. That meant during spring practice, Schaben was not allowed to hit a volleyball.

Schaben’s lengthy recovery time sparked concerns on whether or not she would be ready to start the season.

However, head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch put to rest any worries during the Iowa State Volleyball Media Day. 

“I could not be more pleased with how (Schaben) looks,” Johnson-Lynch said. “So, kudos to our doctors.”

During Schaben’s first two years as a Cyclone, the volleyball staff had to manage her pain. Last season, to ensure she would be available for game days, the Iowa State coaching staff only allowed her to swing and hit on match days. Anything more than that and Schaben would be in pain.

Despite that, Schaben still had a remarkable season. The junior out of Defiance, Iowa recorded 349 kills, good for first on the team, a .227 hitting percentage and was named First Team All-Big 12.

As Johnson-Lynch put it, “That’s remarkable.”

Schaben is back to 100 percent for the first time in her career and Johnson-Lynch expects her to be deadly.

“I think it is really exciting,” Johnson-Lynch said. “So, now that she is taking reps. She is hitting a lot this preseason. She feels great, no soreness. That is unbelievable to me. I think she will be able to do more. She should get enough training in where she can do things offensively in matches that she was not able to last year.”

What offense will Iowa State run?

The Cyclones are trying to figure out what offensive system they want to run. Do they want to go with the 5-1, the 6-2 or a mix of both?

“I am leaning toward a 6-2,” Johnson-Lynch said. “But I think we will see a bit of both.”

The difference between a 5-1 and a 6-2 is the number of setters used. A 5-1 system only uses one and the 6-2 scheme uses two. If Iowa State does in fact utilize two setters this season, it has two strong options available.

The Cyclones return Monique Harris, who started 18 games last year at setter, and brings in talented freshman, Piper Mauck, who participated in spring practice.

Both are extremely skilled, but both possess a different skill set. Harris likes to keep the flow at a fast pace and has a strong defense. Mauck, due to her height, is able to set and save balls that look like they are about to go over the net.

While they are talented, those different techniques create a problem for Iowa State if it wants to run a 6-2.

“They have different strengths,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We have to make sure we make the most of those. We have to make sure our hitters feel comfortable hitting off both because they have to adjust to both setters.”

Big 12 is stacked

When the Big 12 released its’ volleyball preseason poll, the usual suspects were listed at the top.

Once again at No. 1 was the Texas Longhorns. Behind them was the Kansas Jayhawks, who returns just about everyone from last year’s squad. At No. 3 was the Baylor Bears, who overachieved with key players hurt last year, who are fully healthy this season. And at No. 4 was Iowa State.

Despite being projected in the top half of the Big 12, Johnson-Lynch expects the Cyclones to battle hard for a top spot at the end of the season. 

“No gimmies,” Johnson-Lynch said on the competition in the conference.

The Kansas State Wildcats are always good, no matter who gets injured according to Johnson-Lynch. The Oklahoma Sooners always present a difficult matchup for Iowa State. And the TCU Horned Frogs and Texas Tech Red Raiders are up and coming teams.

“There is not going to be a bad team that we play,” Johnson-Lynch said.