ISU volleyball aims to hand Kansas first defeat


Head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch spoke at a press conference about the team and her hopes for the upcoming season at Volleyball Media Day on Aug. 18, 2015.

Brian Mozey


It’s a rare term used in the sports world and a record that’s hard to maintain.

Iowa State will try to become the first team to defeat Kansas this season when the two match up Saturday in Lawrence, Kan. It’ll be the matchup defined by Iowa State’s defense and Kansas’ offense.

“Kansas is great team, hence the undefeated record,” said ISU volleyball coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. “We have to compete just like any other match and hopefully we can get one win closer to the top spot in the conference.”

Iowa State and Kansas have played essentially evenly the past five seasons, the Cyclones winning six of the 10 matches against the Jayhawks. But during the past three seasons, the two teams have split the games. 

The reason behind this split could be the two different styles of play. Kansas focuses on offensive pursuits, such as kills, assists and hitting percentage, while Iowa State counters with defensive priorities, like amassing digs and blocks.

Kansas is ranked first in kills per set with 15.47 and first in assists per set with 14.47. The team boasts the second-best hitting percentage of all the Division I teams in the country.

“Our objective is to create long rallies and stop Kansas from attacking with their solid hitters,” said libero Caitlin Nolan. “We have to do what we do best, which is dig and have a defensive-mind approach.”

Iowa State ranks 23rd in digs per set in the NCAA. As a libero, Nolan will be focusing on how to make the points longer and rally to wear out the Kansas hitters and setters.

Johnson-Lynch will be centering her attention on two specific players on the Kansas team. The first is Kelsie Payne, a right-side hitter from Texas who leads the team with 211 kills this season and averages 4.06 kills per set.

The other player is Ainise Havili, a setter from Texas who leads the NCAA in assists per set with 12.55 and has 656 assists this season.

If Iowa State can get those two Kansas players out of rhythm, Johnson-Lynch thinks it’s possible to serve Kansas its first loss of the season. 

Johnson-Lynch hopes the players continue to push hard after two long weeks mostly on the road. This will be the last match until next weekend when Iowa State plays Texas Christian at home. 

Every season, the focus is always on Texas and how to defeat it. Now, it seems like the spotlight has shifted to Kansas and how to end its pursuit of perfection.  

“It always seems like Texas is the team to beat to win the Big 12 Championship,” said junior Ciara Capezio. “Now, it looks like we’ll have to go through Kansas to win that title.”