ISU volleyball strives for redemption in rematch against No. 10 Kansas

Senior Caitlin Nolan dives for the ball during the game against Kansas State Wed. evening. The Cyclones beat the Wildcats 3-0. 

Kevin Horner

The Cyclones left plenty of room for improvement after being swept by the Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kansas Oct. 10.

Thanks to the rules of Big 12 play, however, the ISU volleyball team has an opportunity for redemption in a rematch against Kansas on Wednesday.

No. 10 Kansas (19-1, 7-1 Big 12) will travel north to Ames to face Iowa State (13-6, 6-2 Big 12) in the final regular season match between the two teams.

Three weeks have passed since Iowa State’s loss to Kansas, but the Cyclones are hoping to utilize their accrued experience during that time to change the outcome against the Jayhawks.

“In a way, the good news is we played poorly down [in Kansas],” said ISU coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. “We were not happy with the way we played really in almost any aspect, so I feel like this match could be much more competitive.”

Statistically speaking, Iowa State’s first matchup against Kansas was one of their worst performances of 2015. The match marked just the third time all season the Cyclones have been swept. Iowa State also registered its second-lowest point total of the year, 58.

In the match, the Cyclones surrendered their third-highest opponent hitting percentage of the season, .279 — recording 49 digs and 4.0 blocks, which ranked among the worst of the season. 

“I think last time there were probably a lot of nerves because they are a really good team,” said senior Caitlin Nolan. “It’s difficult playing a good team [on the road].”

Now, after hitting the midpoint of the Big 12 season, the Cyclones will begin their round of rematches with each conference opponent — starting with Kansas. Since the loss to the Jayhawks, the Cyclones are 3-0, winning nine of their last 10 sets.

Kansas, on the other hand, suffered its first loss of the season Oct. 23 at the hands of No. 2 Texas. The Longhorns swept the Jayhawks handily — surrendering just 49 total points during the three sets.

Now that Kansas has shown its first sign of vulnerability, the Cyclones are ready to take advantage and earn their first victory against a top-10 opponent in 2015.

“I think we have a little more experience, a little more confidence,” said sophomore Alexis Conaway. “I think we’ve seen what we’re capable of, but we’re also not satisfied with where we’re at. So we’re excited for Wednesday to see where we can be.”

An additional factor potentially working in Iowa State’s favor is the location of Wednesday’s match — Hilton Coliseum. Through the first eight conference games, Iowa State is 4-0 at home.

Unlike the 1,515 people in attendance at the first matchup in Lawrence, the majority of the fans at the game will be supporting the Cyclones Wednesday.

The team is expecting attendance numbers to range close to when it played Nebraska earlier this season, a matchup that brought in 3,180 fans.

Iowa State is counting on that crowd’s help in its attempt to hand Kansas its second-straight loss.

“I think [playing at home] is huge,” Nolan said. “Playing here is probably the hardest place to play in the conference. We really need to get a big crowd, so we should probably start telling a lot of people.”