Iowa State can call themselves champions after defeating the Tulane Green Wave 3-1 Tuesday night.
Much of the story this season for the Iowa State volleyball team revolved around the team overcoming and fighting through adversity at almost every turn.
Injuries, new lineup assignments, suspensions and more threatened Iowa State as they made their way into the NIVC tournament, making the seniors for Iowa State that much more important.
The Cyclones continually relied upon seniors Jess Schaben and Hannah Bailey to lead the team through rough patches, before and during their NIVC run.
However, in the championship match against the Tulane Green Wave, a freshman from Richmond, Minnesota, was the driving force behind a NIVC Championship victory.
Eleanor Holthaus, a freshman right side for the Cyclones, made a name for herself in the final match of the season, just when Iowa State needed someone to step up.
"I just loved the way she played tonight," said coach Christy Johnson-Lynch.
Holthaus ended the championship match with a 13-kill performance on a .522 hitting percentage. Holthaus also added on three blocks for good measure.
Holthaus made her impact felt right away, putting Iowa State on the board first with a kill. Immediately following her kill, Holthaus and Candelaria Herrera joined arms at the net, blocking a Green Wave attempted kill.
Iowa State jumped ahead by two points to begin the first set.
"I thought [Eleanor] was critical tonight," Coach Johnson-Lynch said. "she took some big-time swings tonight and has really been playing better each match in the tournament."
Holthaus wasn't done as Iowa State headed into the second set.
The Cyclones and the Green Wave refused to give each other any breathing room for the entirety of the set. Neither team could string together any sort of run, committing errors and going through cold stretches to prevent any momentum shift.
As the second set neared its final stages, Iowa State found itself locked with Tulane.
Both teams were knotted at 25-25, then 26-26, 27-27, 28-28, until finally Josie Herbst sent a bullet into the heart of the Green Wave defense, giving the Cyclones a 29-28 lead.
The long and drawn-out set ended in the Cyclones favor, putting Iowa State up 2-0 in the championship match.
Taking a 2-0 lead into the third set of the match, Holthaus continued to show up for the Cyclones, with a championship in their grasps.
Holthaus had four kills in the third set alone.
Her biggest statement of the night however proved to be the final point of the match.
Almost fittingly, Holthaus was the one who brought the championship home, striking a ferocious kill to win the set and the match, 25-16.
"It was unbelievable," Holthaus said. "It was definitely a moment I'll never forget and was a great start to my college experience."
To cap off her memorable performance, Holthaus, along with Herrera and Schaben received All-Tournament team honors.
Johnson-Lynch said the tournament experience is valuable for a freshman like Holthaus to learn from. The ability to perform under pressure, with a win-or-go-home mentality, is the biggest lesson Johnson-Lynch believes Holthaus and all returning players should remember.
Johnson-Lynch was proud and thankful for how Holthaus stepped up to help deliver a championship to Iowa State.
"If [Holthaus] hadn't played that well, we could have been in trouble," Johnson-Lynch said. "She brought it when it counted tonight."