In the first two rounds of the NIVC tournament, Iowa State didn't have too much trouble taking down both Drake and Bradley in three straight sets.
In their first two matchups of the tournament, Iowa State made quick work of their first tournament opponents so why come into this matchup with the Mean Green with a different approach?
An unexpected absence from one of the Cyclones' most productive and vocal leaders would lead to an uncharacteristic start for Iowa State. However, the team recovered and defeated the Mean Green. It did come at the expense of a slow start.
Grace Lazard, a senior middle-blocker for the Cyclones, was suspended for the rest of the season prior to the matchup with North Texas.
Lazard was suspended for violating team rules, according to the team.
Lazard is by no means a role player. In her senior year with the Cyclones, Lazard dished out 295 kills and 126 blocks. Her .384 hitting percentage on the year was already the fourth-best mark for a single-season in school history.
Lazard's production and consistent-play was missed during some points against the Mean Green on Wednesday night.
"We definitely had to adjust at first with the new lineup," Jess Schaben said. "It showed in the first set."
Iowa State lost the first set against the Mean Green to start off the match and it was clear something was missing.
Iowa State hadn't dropped the first set in a match since their last loss of the season against Baylor on Nov. 7.
Both first sets and matches against Baylor and the Mean Green had one thing in common.
Lazard was not suited up.
Back in November, Lazard was in the middle of serving a three-game suspension, during which the Cyclones went 1-2. Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch admitted the team had some trouble adjusting to new assignments and lineups back in November when Lazard was out.
Those similar issues reared their head once again to begin the match against the Mean Green.
The Cyclones finished the set with no blocks and lacked a sturdy defense in the front row to combat against North Texas's hitters. North Texas hit for a .316 hitting mark in the first set with 15 kills.
Multiple serves and kills confused the Cyclones in the first set, with teammates colliding and diving for the ball.
"I thought we started terribly tonight," Johnson-Lynch said. "We just needed little time to get into that and we would be fine."
Luckily for the Cyclones, both the defense and offensive attack came alive in the final three sets.
The team focused and defended the net with conviction from that point on. The team racked up 9.5 total blocks in the rest of the match.
On the offensive side, Lazard's attack wasn't needed. Schaben led the way with 10 kills in the second set alone. Schaben ended her night with 26 kills but she had plenty of help along the way.
Four players for the Cyclones hit .300 or above in the match, which led to a combined 69 kills in the match.
Iowa State held the Mean Green in check the rest of the night. The Mean Green came in against Iowa State with a modest .233 hit percentage but even without their 6-foot-2 middle blocker, Iowa State kept North Texas to a subpar .188 average on the night.
"I think we just played our game," Hannah Bailey said. "We were starting to dig balls we usually get and we ended with a great blocking night which always helps."
Schaben, Bailey and the rest of Iowa State have dealt with injuries and adversity throughout the entire season. Schaben had a s strong belief after the match that this group of Cyclones can conquer anything.
"I would call ourselves warriors," Schaben said. "We've been through so much together and has made us stronger. Throw anything at us, we are ready for it."
The match may not have began with a strong statement from the Cyclones but they ended the night by making a bigger one by rallying to win three straight sets without one of their key starters.