ISU volleyball sticks with 6-2 system despite injury


Josh Newell/Iowa State Daily

Redshirt junior Morgan Kuhrt (3) bumps the ball during Iowa State’s match against North Dakota on Aug. 29 at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones defeated the Fighting Sioux, 3-1.

Kevin Horner

A concussion to junior Suzanne Horner in practice Sept. 2 required an immediate change of plans for the ISU volleyball team as it prepared for the upcoming Fairfield Inn and Suites Cavalier Classic.

As the injury occurred just two days before Iowa State’s match against Appalachian State on Sept. 4, ISU coach Christy Johnson-Lynch had to make a quick decision as to what formation would be utilized for the upcoming weekend, the 6-2 or the 5-1.

During the Cyclone Invitational on Aug. 28 and 29, Iowa State played in the 6-2 almost exclusively, but that was when both Horner and sophomore setter Monique Harris were healthy. As the system calls for two setters, the Cyclones were able to showcase the talents of both players.

But with Horner’s concussion, Johnson-Lynch was left with two options entering the weekend tournament in Charlottesville, Va.

One option was to revisit the 5-1 system — a formation that generated less success last season, in terms of winning percentage, than the 6-2. In that situation, Harris would assume the entire setting load — setting from both the front and back rows — as the 5-1 calls for just a single setter.

Option two — a choice with perhaps more implications for the future — was to hold fast to the 6-2 formation and activate freshman setter Remi Bowman to collaborate with Harris in Virginia. Johnson-Lynch decided on option two, disqualifying the freshman for a potential redshirt. 

Now, some may assume that with three active setters for the 2015 season the Cyclones would be committed to the 6-2 formation. But Johnson-Lynch has yet to set her formations in stone.

“I still am interested in the 5-1, honestly,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We’ll still toy with it. We’ll keep exploring it to see which system we’ll be better in.”

The Cyclones were in a similar dilemma in 2014. Last season it was the 5-1 that was used early on with the 6-2 being mixed in every so often in practice. And although the 5-1 characterized the majority of the first half of the season, it was the 6-2 that eventually carried Iowa State into and through the NCAA Tournament.

Now, even with the consistent employment of the 6-2 during matches, the 5-1 continues to linger around practice with the underlying potential to be called upon as the 6-2 was in 2014.

“There definitely is [potential for the 5-1 to be used], especially since Suzanne [Horner] is hurt,” said senior Caitlin Nolan. “Remi [Bowman] came in and did a really good job this weekend, but sometimes you just need to switch it up a little bit.”

Despite the potential for the formation switch, the Cyclones continue to employ the 6-2. ISU players said they feel the 6-2 better fits the mold of the team as a whole — specifically in terms of attackers.

As the 6-2 only permits setters to set from the back row, the front row is always filled with three attackers, allowing the team to take full advantage of its barrage of attacking talent.

“There’s always three hitters up, so that [opens] that other spot [in the front row] where the setter would be up [in the 5-1],” said redshirt junior Morgan Kuhrt. “We have a lot of offensive weapons, so I think it’s a good opportunity for a lot of people to get into the front row.”

Not only are the ISU attackers better showcased with the 6-2 system, but so are the setters. The 6-2 has allowed Harris, Horner and Bowman to all contribute to the team — something that most likely would not happen in the 5-1.

The 2015 Cyclones, as can be seen by the opening two tournaments, seem to be leaning toward the 6-2 formation for the future. However, as 2014 can attest to, no formation is ever set in stone for ISU volleyball.