For the first time in a while, Iowa State volleyball finally showed some life on offense.
Granted, it came in a 3-0 sweep to Texas on the road, but the Cyclones’ .302 percent hitting percentage nonetheless showed that they were able to hit the ball at a high level, consistently, throughout the duration of a match.
Heading into its match against Kansas State, the question then became whether or not Iowa State could put together back-to-back strong performances, offensively and as a team.
“Our offense had kind of stalled out there for a while,” said coach Christy Johnson-Lynch before the match. “I’m sure hoping, and I feel confident, that we learned some things down [in Texas] and keep that going.”
Sure enough, the Cyclones did keep it going. Behind 62 team kills and a .379 hitting percentage, the Cyclones finally snapped a four-game losing streak and proved that the potential for high-level play still exists for a team that’s seen its fair share of struggles.
The qualifier here is that Kansas State itself is a struggling team. In fact, even more so than Iowa State. The Wildcats fell to 0-6 in Big 12 Conference play with their loss on Wednesday, meaning that even with the win, it’s far too early to declare the Cyclone slump over.
With that being said, for a team like Iowa State that’s struggled to put together complete performances, its win on Wednesday was a nice reminder of what the team is capable of when they’re on. Now, having played well in back-to-back matches, the Cyclones will have to prove that they can continue that strong play against tougher opponents.
They’ll get that opportunity on Saturday when TCU visits Hilton Coliseum. The Horned Frogs currently sit at 3-3 in conference play, but have already beaten two opponents that defeated the Cyclones in Texas Tech and Oklahoma.
Additionally, the Frogs took No. 4 Texas to five sets less than two weeks ago. If the Cyclones want to earn their first winning streak since the end of August, it'll no doubt take another complete effort.
“TCU is playing well, I think they’ve got a couple of really nice athletes,” Johnson-Lynch said. “They’ve got a middle [Anna Walsh] that’s very experienced and getting a lot of kills for them, and they’ve got a freshman outside [Elan McCall] who’s scoring a lot of points for them. So yeah, it’s a really nice team.”
If you ask the players, the biggest key to taking down TCU (and getting their first conference home win of the season) won’t simply be replicating its recent offensive success. That’s a part of it, but it feeds into something larger: hustling and playing fearlessly.
Hustling hasn’t necessarily been a glaring issue for the Cyclones this season, but with the team’s increased emphasis on doing the small things right, it makes sense that the team would go back to basics and focus on factors that they can control.
“This last week, we started enforcing a rule where if you don’t go for a ball, you’re off the court,” sophomore setter Piper Mauck said. “We’ve been focused on being aggressive and just playing hard no matter what."
Playing fearlessly, on the other hand, has been a recurring problem for Iowa State. Johnson-Lynch has noted multiple times this season that the team tends to tense up and play timidly when things don’t go their way, but Mauck and the players are doing their best to rectify that issue.
“We’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to make some errors, but you’ve just got to continue that thread of plays," Mauck said. "We want to keep continuing that.”
Last but not least, the team will be looking to replicate the energy of its last couple games. That should be a little easier now that the team has a little bit of confidence, but players say that energy goes hand-in-hand with aspects like hustling in the sense that it’s something that can be controlled.
And if the Cyclones can excel in areas that they can control, for an entire game rather than just one set, then the team knows full well that they can find themselves back at .500 after Saturday.
“I think we all just have to come together every day,” said Josie Herbst, junior outside hitter. “We have to keep pushing because we need to keep winning games, and if we have more energy we’ll keep winning more games.”